By January 10, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

InterView-Greg Nyhoff

The BigView –
Monthly Feature Interview with Greg Nyhoff
By Chris Murphy

Modesto, USA is a Classic American City. We are different than any other city in the world as we are the home of the stories and the legends that created the film American Graffiti. Our small town experience, big city culture and our agriculture economy feeds the world and attracts companies large and small and families new and old. We are the same in many ways as our area has been battered by a global recession and local issues for which we have been victimized by uninformed national media.

Modesto, USA stands poised to tell our real story, share our opportunities and plan the way for the decades to come. Who do we want to be? What can we be? How will our arts and culture make us a shining example of future city planning. This month we check in with City Manager Greg Nyhoff as he shares his plan on how we evolve as a leading city.

Greg was born in Denver, Colorado and has been married to Cindy nearly 30 years. He has one daughter Anna and two sons Phillip and Luke. College graduate Anna works in Manteca, Phil is a senior at Patten College in Oakland and Luke is a Junior at in the IB program at Modesto High They all have made a nice transition to California. With over 25 years’ experience in municipal government, 17 in City Management most recently in Colorado Springs and he arrived in Modesto USA in 2008. Let’s meet Greg.

ModestoView: What is the most enjoyable part of being a city manager?
Greg Nyhoff: Watching the community grow and believe in themselves as they realize their opportunities and assets and grow them, taking great pride in calling themselves “Modestans.” I have yet to see a community that is thriving without a strong business foundation, a first class arts and culture environment, and a non-profit community of volunteers stepping forward every day.

MV: What about Modesto interested you?
GN: Before I accepted the position in Modesto, Cindy and I visited three times. The community neighborhoods, the world-renowned businesses, small businesses, afirst-class dining and entertainment environment, and a strong and beautifulagriculture setting and economy is what we found. Plans for downtown residential/office/commercial development indicated great promise and hope for strengthening downtown.

MV: Modesto was hit especially hard in this economy just after you arrived in 2008, do you see positive change soon?
GN: The building industry and our property values have been impacted most severely. These have been the two greatest factorsleading to our high unemployment and foreclosure rates. Over the past couple of quarters we are seeing increases in sales tax revenue, which indicates business improvements. This, in turn, leads to the City’s ability to stabilize our public safety general services. We find our city government in no different situation than the average homeowner or business owner. Revenues have declined significantly and we have had to cut our budgets by over 20% overall. The anticipation of a new day is raising hope for a brighter future for Modesto. How we will spend our time and efforts now will determine how bright we shine in the future.

MV: What are the two most urgent issues facing Modesto?
GN: Solid job creation and improvements to our severely reduced property values are the two most urgent issues we face today. The City Council recently took action to reevaluate impact fees and reduced them for businesses wanting to grow or expand. The City Council has established the growth of business and creating jobs as its highest priorities, so much so that they unanimously voted to provide incentives to businesses creating new jobs. The Alliance recently announced a goal to create 1,000 new jobs over the next six months. Every business hiring at least one new employee will get us there. We must invest in ourselves, buy local and support our local economy. Each time a job is created, an employee receives a paycheck. If that employee spends that paycheck locally, they support a local business who then hires another employee … and the cycle begins again. We must SUPPORT AND INVEST LOCALLY!!

MV: How can people in the community get more involved?
GN: Acommunity must be able to manage its interpersonal relationships in a positive – civil and respectful – manner. Allowing an open culture of ideas breeds solutions that make a difference. I would like to see Modesto residents reporting and stamping out tagging. Tagger’s create blight and blight causes a decline in property values and creates an inhospitable landscape. LOVE MODESTO – Volunteer your time to participate in city-wide cleanup efforts that occur several times throughout each year. Become a part of the solution. It makes a difference. What can the youth of our community do to help with our next generation planning? My son, who is enrolled in the IB program at Modesto High, is required to volunteer for a specified number of community service hours. I think all of our youth should have the same requirement. Through service, they will gain such a better understanding of their community and get the satisfaction of making a difference.

MV:  Is there really a good partnership for structure and planning with the County?
GN:In the past our relationship with the County has been one of a competitive nature. Responding to the downturn in the economy both the City and County have realized the need to partner on services where we have the most in common. These have included the Animal Shelter and the Regional Fire Authority. We are also discussing regional transportation and transit. We believe that there are still many more opportunities to evaluate. I look forward tothis successful regional partnering to grow to higher levels in 2012.

MV: Why is a healthy Downtown Modesto important for the entire community?
GN: Successful cities have a successful downtown core. It shows strength, creates a center for our community to gather, live, work and function efficiently. Healthy downtowns send a message and are a beacon of civic pride and character. It attracts interest and business.

MV: When will we have downtown housing?
GN: It was so close to becoming a reality right before the housing bubble broke. The City recently made the land use codes very flexible in order to make mixed uses the preference for downtown. Unfortunately, until real estate values climb, downtown housing projects are not economically feasible.

MV: What plans do you envision in 2012 to make downtown Modesto even more vibrant and attractive?
GN: The City recently adopted design standards which will, over time, enhance the attractiveness of downtown. The business community, the city and our citizens should perform an audit or “hospitality assessment” of our downtown. The assessment should look at parking, outdoor dining, vacant store fronts, policing, and the likes. Formulating a community-wide assessment of areas for improvement will help us develop recommendations of how to do it better and implement a new “Hospitality Zone” in downtown Modesto. It’s time to create and market a theme. Our heritage of American Graffiti seems to be a great fit!

MV: How do we tell the rest of the world how good Modesto is and can be?
GN: Modesto has tremendous assets. I often tell City staff to show your value to the community. I think it is time for us to unite as business, citizens, neighborhoods, non-profits and government in a concerted effort to positively market Modesto. The momentum to accomplish this has already begun with a number of groups. In order to have the greatest marketing impact, we must unite and add positive to positive to positive.

MV: Describe your perfect day in Modesto.
GN: Iusually start my day by sharing a coffee with my wife at a local coffee shop. Then I work on my trees and yard for a couple hours, depending on the weather. On a good day, I’ll work out in my home gym and then go watch either the Modesto Nuts or Modesto High baseball team. I like to have a nice early dinner in downtown Modesto before I catch a movie at the Brenden Theatre. The evening will end with a great dessert in one of our downtown restaurants.

MV: Beatles or Stones?
GN: It would have to be the Beatles, but Chicago is coming to the Gallo Center, that is definitely a concert I won’t miss.

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