Skills Honed as a Librarian Help Nancy Hunt-Coffey Thrive as Assistant City Manager
When Nancy Hunt-Coffey began working for Beverly Hills 11 years ago as the city librarian – technically, the Assistant Director of Community Services tasked with overseeing the Beverly Hills Public Library – she brought with her 20 years’ experience of public service and an uncanny ability to quickly discern what it is people want and how to help them achieve it.
As Assistant City Manager, a role she has held since June, philosophically what she does now is not that different than the fundamentals of library science.
“A lot of the work that I think both [City Manager George Chavez] and I do is translation. We listen to what is important to the [City Council] and try to translate that into reality by working with the departments,” she explained.
Hunt-Coffey is tasked with helping support Chavez to ensure that City operations run smoothly, in addition to providing oversight to select departments and working closely with the City Council.
Beyond organizing information to create reports (she keeps a list of “Council meeting follow-up” which she turns into actionable plans), tracking projects or fielding a bevy of questions from residents, staff, commissioners and members of the City Council, Hunt-Coffey is constantly working to help people expeditiously achieve the outcome they want by linking them with the relevant resources. It’s a skill she honed while earning her Master’s degree in Information Studies from UCLA and later while working for the City of Glendale in a variety of roles before being named its Director of Libraries.
“A lot of what librarians do is they interact with patrons [and] frequently when you have someone who comes in, they have an information need, but they don’t always know how that translates into the resource that they’re looking for,” she described. “A lot of times you end up talking with people and then you take all that input and within a few minutes, you’re supposed to come up with a resource that meets that need. I think it’s an incredible training ground for someone that’s in a position like this. A lot of what I do is connecting the dots, people with the information they need.”
City Manager George Chavez described her as “deeply committed to public service and to Beverly Hills.”
“Her years of experience leading the complex Community Services Department have prepared her well for the strategic work that lies ahead,” he told the Courier. “She is a terrific partner with a passion for public service and I am thrilled to have her by my side.”
Hunt-Coffey’s calm demeanor and drive to be helpful no doubt influenced her career path with the City. However, her path has not been entirely smooth – she was recently named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a former employee accusing her of age discrimination.
As Hunt-Coffey’s role as Assistant Director expanded and her responsibilities grew, she eventually became the Director of Community Services in 2016 where she was responsible for leading the City’s Recreation and Parks, Library, Human Services and Administrative Support divisions.
“I quite frankly thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my career as community services director,” she said.
She counts “being allowed to create great, beautiful, meaningful spaces for the community” as her greatest accomplishment with the City thus far. From leading the Beverly Gardens Park renovation project to helping build the new Roxbury Community Center and the new Children’s Library, to helping with the fine art installations around the City, Hunt- Coffey is deeply gratified by what she has been able to accomplish.
Throughout her tenure with the City, Hunt-Coffey has gotten to know areas of the City deeply and is now learning about the breadth of the City and its operations on a much more profound scope. Under Chavez’ direction, she has oversight over Community Services, Public Works, IT and Community Development, in addition to overseeing staff working on economic development and legislation. She also closely monitors legislation that can impact Beverly Hills, such as affordable housing, pension costs and pension reform.
She is currently helping spearhead the La Cienega master planning process, which the City Council is expected to weigh in on at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday.
“So far it has been a great process gathering public feedback and trying to turn that feedback into reality and trying to design something that truly the community has said they want,” she described. Another larger project Hunt-Coffey is currently involved with is “Beverly Hills Fiber,” wherein the City will provide high-speed broadband fiber services to residents and businesses.
“There’s always been this dream for decades of having such high-speed internet that you could do all kinds of things from the home,” she described, highlighting telemedicine, where doctors and patients can have interactive sessions. She adds that the service would enhance the City’s ability to draw high-tech professionals who can work from home.
Ensuring that Beverly Hills remains a full-service city for a population of 35,000 residents – a number which swells to 250,000 people on a daily basis – is no small task. With 747 full-time employees and 378 part-time employees, the City of Beverly Hills has an extraordinarily high ratio of employees to residents.
“I’m constantly blown away by the services and the range of things that are available to people in this community,” she said.
From the “little things” like an outstanding City-run farmer’s market where City employees have the ability to verify that the produce is truly organic to the amazing service offered by the Beverly Hills Fire and Police departments, Hunt- Coffey emphasized how extraordinary the City is.
Of course, there’s constant change and the City strives to adapt to those changes. There is no shortage of important issues and projects confronting the City in its near future. Among those issues are an increase in the City’s homeless population along the transportation corridor; two new subway stops and the impact they will have on the large retailers struggling along Wilshire Boulevard; the One Beverly Hills mixed-use project; and the possible new luxury hotel by LVMH in the former Brooks Brothers space on Rodeo Drive.
One of the most “interesting facts” Hunt-Coffey said she didn’t know before she started working here is that 60 percent of housing stock is multifamily, and more recently, that the last census found that the better part of 10 percent of residents are living at or below poverty line and that the better part of 20 percent of single parent households are living at or below the poverty line.
“I think it’s important to recognize that the perception that a lot of people have of Beverly Hills of being the lives of the rich and famous is true to a certain degree, but there is also another portion of our community that struggles, and I think a lot of folks are here because they’re looking for better lives for their kids,” she said.
“My favorite thing about Beverly Hills is the people,” added Hunt-Coffey, who lives within walking distance to her office together with her husband and two children. “People here are really interesting and involved and smart and they keep you on your toes. It may be conflicting views, but they’re dedicated to what they feel is the best for the community. It’s like a small town. People are really involved and they really care.”
She adds: “I think you can’t overemphasize kindness as a foundation of civilized society and that’s what public service is all about at the end of the day. It’s about serving people. It’s helping people rise up and meeting people’s needs so they can go do their good work. Because it does have a ripple effect.”