HomeCity Government NewsNew City Manager Is Steward of San Marino’s Passion

New City Manager Is Steward of San Marino’s Passion

When Philippe Eskandar, San Marino’s new city manager, began his career as a public servant, his sense of duty for this line of work had taken root long before he entered the workforce.

His attitude toward serving others was shaped at an early age, originating from the stories shared with him by his Armenian parents, who journeyed separately out of Iran to escape the revolution between 1979-1980. They settled in the United States, where the pair would later meet.

“Back then, during the revolution, they were fleeing a country where you couldn’t really have a voice or a say in government,” Eskandar told the Tribune. “They would tell us stories of how things unfolded, and I can’t even imagine the chaos that came with being uprooted the way they were. My mom was 17 or 18 and my dad was a few years older than that, being thrust out of everything they knew and into a totally different world.

“My parents having gone through what they did to get here, having emigrated to this country, it’s hard for me to think about anything that we do as being more challenging than that — to give my sister and I, first-generation Americans, an opportunity to have a good life and be good, contributing members of society. To not squander that means the world to me. So, leaving the world a better place is at the top of my list, and giving back to the community is the least I can do.”

Eskandar attributes his father’s influential role in his life to the direction he ultimately pursued professionally, which set him on course to become the city manager he is today.

“Growing up, my father really valued, and instilled in me, the importance of being a part of local government and the understanding that everything starts at the local level and grows from there,” said Eskandar, who has most recently served as the deputy city manager for the city of Westlake Village. Throughout his career, he has worked for the cities of Glendale, Burbank and Newport Beach.

Eskandar’s employment agreement with the city of San Marino was approved by the City Council on June 14. He is expected to fulfill a three-year term, which went into effect on July 1. Eskandar has master’s degrees in public policy from Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, dispute resolution from Pepperdine University’s School of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in criminology, law and society from UC Irvine.

“It’s a huge honor. It’s a humbling role to hold as the city manager,” Eskandar said. “Like the city, it has a rich history, and it means a lot to me. It’s a position you have to take with a great deal of stability, where you have to look to the community to understand how this part of the San Gabriel Valley, specifically in Los Angeles County, has stayed so special and has kept its long-standing values and traditions.

“It is very important that we carry that forward and make sure, as city staff, that we can keep this community special. … It’s a really crucial role that we, in public service, don’t take lightly.”

San Marino has been considered top tier in Eskandar’s eyes, a city he hoped to one day join.

“This community has always been on my radar,” he said. “San Marino is one of those special cities. In public service, you often have a short list of cities you would be interested in working for and in, and San Marino was always top-of-mind. You look for communities that have a deep sense of pride, and that was something that stood out to me and spoke to me.

Photos courtesy city manager’s office // City Manager Philippe Eskandar (second, from left) stands alongside members of the San Marino Fire Department amid San Marino’s Fourth of July festivities.

“When I did my homework on the community, I could really see through its events and Council meetings that the people are passionate and have a really engaged City Council — a great functioning body, that has impressed me incredibly. They are in tune with the community, they have great camaraderie and chemistry that doesn’t often happen with decision-makers, but it was evident here.”

To make the city even more appealing to Eskandar, his wife works just down the street from him at Huntington Memorial Hospital, where she is an attending physician as part of the Graduate Medical Education faculty.

Aside from being near his wife, one of the city manager’s favorite aspects of his job is being in touch with residents and having conversations about what they would like to see accomplished.

“The biggest success for me is being out there and being a part of this community,” Eskandar said. “Those conversations stand out more than anything because they help you zone in on where you need to focus your attention as city manager, and it also gives you a different temperature because these are unsolicited feedback from the community. 

“One community member sent me an email after the first Council meeting and shared some praise and that meant a lot to me. You know people are watching, but you don’t always know what they are thinking, so when you hear from them, that really goes a long way.”

But making those meaningful exchanges — which Eskandar describes as a “whirlwind of fun” — has also proved to be a difficult task, he admitted.

“One of the challenges has been getting around to meet people,” Eskandar said. “There are so many individuals who are very passionate about the community, and I want to make sure that I can find the time to meet with folks and listen to them.

“One of my philosophies is trying to understand the why behind something — why is someone doing something a specific way or why is someone so passionate about something — and as I’m meeting with people, I’m trying to understand their whys as members of the community. That helps me better relate to them.”

While spending time at the San Marino Cafe on Mission Street recently, Eskandar said he frequently observed people greeting each other and connecting with one another — a rarity in some cities.

“So many people know each other here. They know their neighbors and local store owners,” Eskandar said. “People don’t just walk past each other. It’s funny — the police officers will wave to you, the firefighters are out there helping people, the public works folks are finding out-of-the-box solutions. There’s really a passion that’s evident and pulls true. It’s not something you can build in many communities, and it exists here naturally.”

Eskandar believes he and other city staff members are the “stewards of that passion,” held whole-heartedly by residents.

“The most rewarding thing is having individuals be proud of their city,” he said. “As we deliver customer service and public service and are out there helping people, we might not ever get a call to say thank you for that, but when you can see them smile and be happy about their services and be proud of their local government and city that they live in — that’s how you measure success. That sense of community pride doesn’t exist in a lot of places anymore, so it is so important to foster that, build on that and keep that a key focus on why I do the job that I do,” Eskandar said.

“In public service, we are heavily relied upon when folks are having not so great days — when they need 911 assistance, or need a repair done on their home or playing by rules they don’t quite understand. So, for us, to be able to help people in their time of need, you really have to do that with a smile on your face and deliver customer service to your community, so that they can see city government as their partner as opposed to their impediment.”

As he looks forward to the work ahead of him, Eskandar said he feels grateful to have been so warmly received by all of whom he’s encountered since taking on his new role.

“I almost don’t have the words for how great it makes me feel to be welcomed to this community,” Eskandar said. “The city has adopted me, and the City Council has welcomed me, but most importantly, the community trusts that the Council has chosen me for a reason. They trust that I can do this. I’ve been grinning ear to ear for several weeks now of how happy San Marino makes me and how welcoming everyone has been.

“I haven’t met one person yet who didn’t have a smile on their face of how proud they are of this city, and that instills a different level of commitment from me. The whole thing — being adopted into the city staff family and the community — has been so humbling. As city manager, you’re not just a city staff member, you really are a member of the community. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome.”


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