Juddy Ceniceros's plate is full, but that's how she likes it

DOWNEY - To be honest, we're not sure what Juddy Ceniceros's job title is at City Hall: is she public information officer? Administrative assistant? Event coordinator? Neighborhood watch captain? Project manager?The answer is "all of the above," and she does all those jobs exceptionally well. At age 27, Ceniceros is one of the youngest employees inside City Hall, and her star is on the rise. A 2006 graduate of Cal State Fullerton (with a bachelor's degree in public administration and a minor in child development), she plans to head back to school this fall for work on a master's degree. Her future, like the city's motto, appears unlimited. "Downey is such a unique city," she says during an interview at her third floor cubicle. "And there are a lot of exciting things coming up." Her greatest accomplishment to date may be the formation of a neighborhood watch program that - as of Tuesday - had 82 active groups. The program - an initiative of Councilman David Gafin - bands neighbors together and encourages residents to immediately report suspicious persons or vehicles to police. Neighborhood watch has become such a success that today it consumes much of Ceniceros' time. The program is in the process of transferring to the Downey Police Department where Jane Guzman will take over control, freeing up time for Ceniceros to concentrate on other projects, police officials confirmed. "I really enjoyed the program and getting to know the residents," Ceniceros said. "I got to see first hand what their issues were. My goal was to make them proactive in taking control of their neighborhood." One of her new responsibilities will be securing grants for the city, to be used from road repaving to new park equipment. She also continues to head the street banner program honoring local military personnel; she's currently soliciting donations to purchase more banners. Ceniceros has also taken the role of public information officer, working hand-in-hand with department heads to craft press releases that are then forwarded to local media outlets. The necessity of a city spokesman has become more apparent since the openings of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, Porto's Bakery, and soon, Raytheon, all high-profile companies with regional appeal. But public information is not limited to newspapers, Ceniceros said. Residents who request information from City Hall (compensation figures are popular requests) are not turned away. In fact, Ceniceros said, residents remain the priority. "I try to help all residents with their needs," said Ceniceros, who completed an internship with Santa Ana's community services department while in college. "We're here to serve the residents, and they're not going to be transferred from one department to another. Customer service is really important to me." Ceniceros, who reports to assistant to the city manager Shannon DeLong, said she's preparing to launch the city's official Facebook and Twitter pages, a seemingly natural extension of the city's efforts to get hip to technology, which started last year with the unveiling of a new website. Expanding to social media will help the city reach an expanding demographic that increasingly gets its information online. In addition, Ceniceros will soon begin putting plans together for another "Taste of Downey" restaurant fair later this year. The inaugural Dine in Downey event was well-attended last November (perhaps a little too well-attended: some restaurant booths ran out of food) and Ceniceros hopes to build on the success. She is also in charge of coordinating the yearly City Council transition party for incoming mayors and outgoing council members. "It's always a team effort," Ceniceros said of her full plate. "I don't do it all by myself. I have a lot of help and support." What does she do for fun? "I like to spend time with family and friends, and travel to nearby places like San Francisco, San Diego and Lake Tahoe," she said. "Family and friends are my priority." We couldn't finish our interview without asking about the unusual spelling of her first name, "Juddy," pronounced Judy. "There's no special significance," she laughed. "People used to call me 'Jud-dy' all through elementary school, high school and college. It's pronounced Judy but just spelled a little different. "

********** Published: March 24, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 49