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City Manager Jim Keene Recognized for Outstanding Career Achievement

City Manager Jim Keene Recognized for Outstanding Career Achievement

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene will be honored by ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, as the recipient of the organization's Award for Career Excellence at its annual meeting on Sept. 28. The award recognizes "an outstanding local government administrator who has enhanced the effectiveness of government officials and consistently initiated creative and successful programs." The award was established in memory of former ICMA Executive Director Mark E. Keane.

As the recipient of ICMA’s Career in Excellence Award, Keene will be formally honored during a Celebration of Service to the Profession as part of ICMA’s 102nd Annual Conference, in Kansas City, Missouri.  

Keene has been Palo Alto’s City Manager since 2008, and previously served in the same capacity in Berkeley and Tucson. In presenting this year’s award, ICMA cited Keene’s “life-long commitment to public service that is driven by a passion for sustainability, community building, civic engagement and innovation to transform local government.” He has been an active contributor to the field of city/county management and urban affairs, and serves as a board member on the Institute for Local Government, the Alliance for Innovation, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, and is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.  

Keene defines his role as a City Manager by drawing inspiration from Aristotle with a quote that is on the wall of his office at City Hall:  “The City is a partnership for living well”. “Today, more than ever before, the future of our world depends on how we live together in cities,” said Keene. “Our destinies as citizens are intertwined – with how our families grown, how our businesses thrive, and how we respect and care for our environment. The life of our cities will depend on the vision, courage and compassion we bring to creating and nurturing our own partnerships for living well.”

League of California Cities Executive Director Chris McKenzie described Keene as …"a thought leader, a collaborator, innovative, honest, thoughtful, funny, wise, fair, hard-working, irreverent (when appropriate), and skilled as a leader and problem solver. The simplest way to say it, however, is that if I were going to be stranded on a desert island with a professional peer, I would be hard pressed to find someone I admire and whose company I enjoy more than Jim. He is a Renaissance man among local government managers and a damn fine human being to boot! I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the award.”

Calling him an innovative city manager who thrives in diverse and engaged communities, Austin City Manager Marc Ott said this about Keene:  “When we talk about the future of local government, it’s clear that Jim embraces the core challenges of advancing democracy, effectively leading and concurrently supporting his elected officials and investing his time and wisdom toward a new generation of local government leaders. His leadership in the areas of digital engagement, collaborative innovation and open government has put Palo Alto at the head of the pack.”  

During his tenure as Palo Alto City Manager, Keene has strengthened its financial position by restructuring employee pension costs; maintaining a AAA bond rating and leading Palo Alto through the deep recession; negotiating a multi-million dollar community benefit fund as part of the $4.5 billion Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Project; solidifying Palo Alto as a leader in sustainability by achieving 100 percent carbon neutral electricity; completed infrastructure projects including the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and secured the passage of a Transit Occupancy Tax to fund a variety of future infrastructure projects.  

The ICMA Professional Awards honor individual achievement by outstanding chief administrative officers, assistant administrators, academics, and others. Nominations are evaluated by an independent panel of ICMA members.  Winners will be featured the October 2016 issue of PM magazine, which will be posted at   

About ICMA

ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government worldwide. Our mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build livable communities that improve people’s lives. ICMA provides member support; publications; data and information; peer and results-oriented assistance; and training and professional development to more than 10,000 city, town, and county experts and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA's members affect millions of individuals living in thousands of communities, from small villages and towns to large metropolitan areas. Learn more at

Last Updated: September 28, 2016