Nelson Fialho, Pleasanton's city manager since 2004 -- and, at the time, was California's youngest municipal executive -- was honored last week by the City Council, and for good reason: He was just recognized by the International City/County Management Association for having served in local government for 25 years.
His accomplishments since being hired at the age of 26 by the city's then-City Manager Deborah Acosta McKeehan range from successfully steering Pleasanton through a recession to managing the completion of the $16.2 million, 16-acre, multipurpose Bernal Community Park.
He began his professional career much as McKeehan did, first interning with a local city to gain municipal administrative experience. Fialho started 27 years ago as a Hayward intern, first in the city manager's office and then rotating through all the major departments of that city for nearly two years, including public works, planning and finance -- the departments he now governs in Pleasanton.
"His energy and passion for public service was infectious," McKeehan recalls. "On top of all that, he was a likable guy others enjoyed working with to complete a task."
Quickly promoted to deputy city manager, Fialho worked with McKeehan and the City Council on implementing the merger of the Livermore and Pleasanton fire departments, acquiring and upgrading the city library from Alameda County, designing financial improvements to the city's capital
improvement plan and heading up the city's labor relations team.
Fialho attributes his work ethic to his parents, who immigrated from the Azores. His mother was a seamstress, his father a military officer from Portugal. They lived the American dream, eventually owning a small dry-cleaning business and becoming naturalized citizens in 1984.
Born in Oakland, Fialho was raised in San Leandro. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science-economics and a master's in public administration with an emphasis in public finance from California State University East Bay. He then embarked on a career in local government, working in Hayward, San Dimas and Campbell prior to Pleasanton.
Here, he has served four mayors and 14 council members. He's made fiscal responsibility and sustainability a guiding principle and, most notably, saw the city through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Outside of City Hall, Fialho is often seen at Patelco Sports Complex, where he coaches youth lacrosse. His three sons are avid lacrosse players.
"While those of us who are elected to serve will come and go, it's the Nelsons of the world -- these true public servants -- who sustain us through hard and extraordinary work, who show up day in and day out in selfless service to the community they love and who make a real difference," Mayor Jerry Thorne said.
Added McKeehan: "He has taken Pleasanton onto the next version of the best it can be. I have no doubt Nelson will have a career in city management as long as he wants it to be. He is a true professional."