Pieces of the Past: Interview with Michael Glaze

By CSDA ADMIN posted 02-21-2020 10:11 AM


Michael Glaze, CSDA President, 1993-1994Michael Glaze

To conclude this special 50th anniversary focus, California Special Districts interviewed CSDA Past President Michael Glaze who served as president from 1993 – 1994. Among his many contributions to CSDA, he was as integral part of the passage of Proposition 1A. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a coalition to work on this new state constitutional amendment. Michael Glaze, along with CSDA Past President Bill Miller (1994-1995 & 2002-2004), were selected to represent special districts on this coalition to protect local governments’ property tax revenue. 

How and when did you first get involved with CSDA? 

CSDA had been in existence for approximately 15 years when I was first elected to its board of directors.  I was a young public utility district manager who believed that special districts were a vital component of local governments and that they offered the communities they served the most responsive and transparent mode of representation.  Getting involved in CSDA was an opportunity for me to reach beyond my own community and work for changes that would be of assistance to communities throughout the state.  Little did I know then that I would spend the last 35 years of my career managing special districts.

During your time of presidency, what were some of the greatest accomplishments of CSDA? Were there any hurdles to overcome?

Ensuring that special districts were respected and afforded the status they deserved as important components of the state’s local government structure was the primary focus of CSDA when I became a board member.  And shortly thereafter, largely through the efforts of CSDA, legislation was passed that gave special districts a seat on each county’s LAFCo. Before that, counties and cities each had strong associations that lobbied effectively on behalf of their constituents, but special districts were represented by service-specific associations that did not work together on big-picture issues.  It wasn’t until CSDA began to attract more and more members that it began to be seen as THE representative of all special districts statewide.

CSDA’s growing status became extremely apparent when, in the early 90s, the Legislature began efforts to take property tax revenue away from special districts.  Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a coalition with cities, counties, and special districts to oppose this outrageous revenue grab, and CSDA was the association that was called upon to provide two representatives to join with two each from cities and counties. My fellow board member Bill Miller and I spent a week in the Governor’s office with that team hammering out a compromise that protected local governments’ property tax revenue. It became Proposition 1A, a state constitutional amendment that was ultimately approved by California voters.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a coalition to work on this new state constitutional amendmentCSDA contracted its association management services and its limited educational offerings when I was first elected to the board. It was apparent at that time that the association would only grow into the organization it needed to be (and has ultimately become) if two things happened:  it needed its own management staff; and, it needed to begin offering educational opportunities to its members that would elevate the professionalism of both their directors and their staff.

We made the bold leap and left the Nossaman law firm that had been providing management services.  We rented office space and hired our first (successful) executive director:  Catherine Smith.  Catherine was futuristic, energetic, diplomatic, and courageous.  Her leadership was the shot-in-the-arm that CSDA needed at the time.  And, fortunately, she guided CSDA through a decade of growth that gave it the opportunity to become the sophisticated and effective organization it is today. 

During my time as CSDA’s president, education opportunities for association members was my primary focus.  Several years earlier, the board had
decided that the association should provide its own educational offerings rather than contract out for them.  Fellow board member Betty Harrison-Smith taught at Shasta Community College, and I was a part-time public administration professor at CSU Chico. So, the rest of the board designated the two of us as CSDA’s educational program.  And we were up for the task.  We developed seminars for district board members and staff and took our show on the road.  The offerings were hugely successful and grew to the point that we knew that more than just the two of us was needed to meet the demand.  Further, I had a dream for CSDA to develop an accredited training program that would be professionally recognized for elected special district directors, managers and staff.  Over time, and through the efforts of Catherine Smith, her staff, and many CSDA board members, a team of subject-matter experts put together the curriculum that is now the Special District Leadership Academy.

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

So, congratulations to CSDA for its first 50 years!  Look what you’ve accomplished and how you’ve improved local government through special districts in California. I can’t wait to see what your post-50 encore will be like!