When Patrick West was earning his M.B.A. (Class of ’86) at California State University, Dominguez Hills, he was deeply impressed with the campus and the features that made it an environment conducive to learning.
“I tell everybody that I talk to that Dominguez Hills is the best,” he enthuses. “I found it to be both super-friendly and user-friendly. The library was always accessible and there were beautiful places to go lie on the grass and study.”
Similarly concerned about his home environment, the former city manager of Paramount went into action when he found that his city was named the eighth worst suburb in America in the early 1980s, working with that community’s agencies and developing an infrastructure in the city to prevent and fight crime.
“The Paramount city council did not bury its head in the sand,” he says.
“We had a very strong redevelopment agency and a very strong city manager at the time, Bill Holt, who is my mentor. We took that [challenge] on, saying, ‘We are not going to be on that list. We had a lot of support from the community and a lot of redevelopment that turned that city around. Violent crime dropped 41 percent, crime dropped 48 percent. Paramount has a huge anti-gang program. As the population doubled, the number of gang members in our town decreased by 50 percent. It’s a beautiful city that people are proud to be from.”
Now, as the city manager of Long Beach, he is doing the same thing with the sprawling metropolis. West’s organic approach to improving the city depends upon the collaboration of its agencies. Public safety is a major issue for him, one that he is addressing by creating partnerships among the city’s many agencies and departments.
“We need a common vision that everybody shares in every department,” West says. “I know we’re tapped for resources, we truly are. But, there are resources available. We’ve got a water department, we’ve got a gas and oil department and a public works department. We need to meet the public perception that we’re not responding to the streets enough. We want to make sure we’re all at the same table, and that whenever one department is touching a street that we all leave it better.”
West is adamant that tapping into the city’s resources is an investment in the future of Long Beach. He is willing to bear temporary shortages for long-term insurance of the city’s reputation.
“Crime in the country is going up but crime in Long Beach is going down. [The police department] spent their extra resources to make that happen,” he notes. “At the end of the day, I would much rather be in a situation with a budget problem than a situation with a crime problem, where Long Beach is looked upon as an unsafe city. It could take years to climb out of that.”
As an M.B.A. student at Dominguez Hills, West appreciated the communal atmosphere of the campus and the accessibility of its resources. He is providing the same for Long Beach residents, stating that the city’s success in improving its streets is the result of its partnership with its citizens.