Folsom's New Face: New city manager talks Folsom's future

By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
-A +A

Recently promoted Folsom City Manager Elaine Andersen has had a long love for public service and is excited to watch the City of Folsom grow in the years to come.

The 27-year Folsom resident said she always had an interest in public service from a young age. Andersen majored in political science at University of California, Berkeley, and had internships in public service in Sacramento, as well as Washington D.C.

After college, she found herself working for the California State Treasurer’s office, mostly in public relations roles.

Early in Andersen’s marriage, she and her husband, Jay Andersen, would come up to Folsom from Sacramento, as they loved going to Sutter Street and antique fairs.

“We thought it was a cool little town,” she said. “We saw the Folsom Ranch Apartments on the hill and decided to move up here. At the time, everyone we knew was in Sacramento and said, ‘why would you drive all the way to Folsom? There is nothing out there.’ We just thought it was so beautiful, and we were really taken with Sutter Street. We just wanted to start our lives here.”

After working for the State of California, Andersen worked for nine years with a public relations firm specializing in state capital legislation projects. Later, she was hired as the public information officer for the City of Sacramento, and after many years, she ended up in the city manager’s office.

“During that entire time, I was driving from Folsom to Sacramento, and I always wanted to serve the city I lived in,” the 49-year-old said. “The appeal and draw to work here was that I just love this city.”

Next thing she knew, a position opened up with the City of Folsom for an assistant to the city manager. She applied and got it in 2005. In 2013, Andersen was promoted to deputy city manager, and in 2015, she was promoted in assistant city manager. After former City Manager Evert Palmer announced his retirement, Andersen was promoted to city manager and began her first day the week of July 16.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to continue to serve the City of Folsom,” she said. “This is an exciting time for Folsom and there is a lot of change. We are essentially building a small city south of [Highway] 50, but that is not going to happen over night.”

Andersen said the development across the freeway won’t be finished for at least 20-to-30 years.

“We’re going to build basically what you see in the east area of Folsom – Broadstone, Empire Ranch and the Parkway,” she said. “That developed over 20-to-30 years, and now, the same thing will happen in a thoughtful, slow, deliberate process south of 50.”

Andersen said she is excited to welcome new residents and have them feel what she felt when she moved here.

“I am excited to have both sides of the freeway feel that 95630 experience. The same thing that drew me to Folsom, I want those new residents to feel it too,” she said. “I don’t want this north of 50-south of 50 lingo that has been adopted. As I move into this leadership phase, it is my job to make sure that we have a seamless and united Folsom community and that we all feel like we are a part of the Folsom community as a whole.”

As the south of Highway 50 project is a controversial topic in the community, Andersen said there is a lot of misinformation out there that she hopes to replace with facts.

“There is a lot of misinformation floating out there in terms of there isn’t enough water, or it is going to develop overnight. I am very eager to have the city push out a lot of the factual information,” she said. “Take it for what you will, but I want to make sure the city is in the role to always put out the facts.”

In addition to pushing out more factual information, Andersen said the city is working on communicating in a more contemporary and simple way such as their social media platforms.

“I always joke about the Charlie Brown movies. The kids talk, but the adults, when they talk, it comes across as ‘Wah wah wah wah.’ I think when governments are pushing out a lot of information, we have so much to say,” she said. “We have this whole breadth of knowledge and sometimes when it comes out, the important nuggets of information get lost. We’re trying to distill that down to communicating in a clear and concise way.”

Andersen said she is also excited to continue working with everyone at the City of Folsom.

“They’re just an astonishing group, and they’re professionals at all levels,” she said. “All of them consider themselves as ambassadors for the City of Folsom, and I am excited to continue to work with them, as well as develop the leaders of the future.”

Another thing Andersen said she is looking forward to is the change coming to the Folsom City Council.

We have three seats that are up for election in November, and two of those seats are currently filled by people who are retiring,” she said. “I am looking forward to be the person who helps educate the new council members on how things get done within a city bureaucracy. I’m excited to give them the tools they need to champion their visions out in the community.”

When asked what she is looking forward to the most, Andersen said continuing the careful planning of Folsom and making sure the city is always in good fiscal health.

“I have the benefit of inheriting a city, thanks to a lot of careful planning of the council and the city managers over many years, that is fiscally stable, and I look forward to continuing to be that steady hand on the helm, continuing to make sure we are a fiscally responsible city,” she said. “We have built an enormous rainy day fund because during the recession, we also had a rainy day fund, and we spent it down, so residents out there weren’t noticing cut backs – they were noticing the city continuing to tug along because we had money to draw form.”

Andersen said throughout the recent years, the city has worked hard with the council’s direction to build the rainy day fund back up.

“I want to be sure that we keep our eye on that and that we are ready. I hope there isn’t another downturn, but I want to be ready,” she said.

Palmer had a few words of advice for Andersen as she steps into her new role.

“Elaine is a great person and a great leader. If I had one piece of advice, I would say, take care of the people that you lead,” he said. “We all stand on the shoulders of those we lead. All good leaders achieve their greatness from the people they lead, not from some divine inspiration that they have. So, take care of the people who work for you, and they will take care of you.”