Marcia Somers assumed duties as Los Altos city manager in April 2012. The following Town Crier “e-terview,” an email interview, offers Somers’ account of how she stepped into a leadership position in a city bursting with activity. This is the second in the two-part series.
TC: Like many Los Altos residents, you have Midwestern roots. Where did you grow up and get your education?
Somers: I grew up in Bloomington, Minn., the original home of that state’s professional sports teams – Vikings, Twins and North Stars. I have fond memories of going to the Met Stadium for many sporting as well as community events. (As I recall, my high school graduation was held there as well.) Part of the larger metropolitan Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Bloomington had an outstanding public school district, extensive and award-winning city and county park systems, and an overall high quality of life. I followed (in the footsteps of) my two older siblings and attended the University of Minnesota.
TC: Have you ever been to Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the source of the Mississippi, and walked across the river without getting your feet wet?
Somers: Of course I have – hasn’t most every native Minnesotan? Itasca State Park is a national gem that a very small percentage of the American public has had an opportunity to visit and experience, so I consider myself lucky. Later in life I was also able to cross the river on a daily basis without getting my feet wet at all (way above the river on an enclosed walkway that was heated in the winter) when I was at the University of Minnesota.
TC: Did you also work in city governments in Minnesota?
Somers: Working for local government was nowhere in my sights as a young adult. I worked as a waiter in various restaurants in order to earn money to pay for tuition, books and other living expenses while in school. That experience, however, exposed me to all sorts of interesting people who helped me fine-tune my listening and customer service skills, which I’ve put to good use during my 28 years working in the public sector.
TC: What brought you to California?
Somers: After spending a summer working in Glacier National Park, I was encouraged by my co-workers to travel home with them to San Francisco. Other than a vacation with my family to the Seattle World’s Fair and a drive down the coast in 1962, I had not ventured this far west. As fate would have it, this post-Glacier trip resulted in meeting my future husband. But since I had plans to live and study in Europe shortly thereafter, I was off on yet another adventure after my brief visit here. I did ultimately move to California, married in 1976, completed my bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University and obtained my master’s degree in Public Administration at Cal State Hayward.
TC: Tell us about where you live now and about your family.
Somers: I have lived in Campbell for 30 years. My husband and I have four adult children and four grandchildren – some who live in the Bay Area and others who are in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
TC: Where do you like to vacation?
Somers: My side of the family reconnects with biannual reunions, alternating between Minnesota, Colorado and California. My siblings and our children and grandchildren gather to spend a fun and laughter-filled week together usually in an area that offers lots of outdoor activities.
TC: What are your hobbies?
Somers: Back in the day (way back), when I had more free time, I sewed most of my clothes – business suits included (the fortunate result of having a mother who was an amazing seamstress/tailor). My almost 30-year commitment to public service is much more than a full-time occupation, so personal discretionary time is limited. However, my primary leisure interests include spending time with my family, reading, traveling and staying in touch with my far-flung relatives and friends through old-fashioned handwritten cards and letters.
TC: What do you see as the significance of SFMOMA coming to town with its temporary four-month exhibition?