Untucked Woman: Cynthia Kurtz, COO of River LA

Cynthia, what keeps you on-the-go? 

There is nothing as exhilarating as working on something you believe in and know will change the future.  That describes working at River LA.  The Los Angeles River has only served as a flood control channel for almost 70 years.  Today we wouldn’t build a flood control management system as an open channel separating neighborhoods and people. Technology has changed and offers new opportunities so it is time to reimagine how to control floods and have better use of all the space.

What's your day-in-the-life?

Up at 6:00 am - then the moving parts of husband, cats, coffee, and news take over in no particular order until I leave Pasadena headed for the Arts District at 8:15 am.  I love working in the Arts District.  I was a fan of Church & State when it first opened. I still am. But now the variety of choices are amazing.  Lots of wonderful food, sites, and stores that you don’t find anywhere else.

Every week there is something new - the spirits shop that makes vodka and gin with oranges but doesn't taste like citrus, the fried chicken salad just down the street, a cubano sandwich served out of a rail car, korean bar-be-que, addicting New Orleans iced coffee and artists with one of a kind work all within walking distance.  It’s wonderful.

I try to be home around 7:30 pm.  I am usually back on the computer visiting friends or finishing some work around 9:00 pm and ready to sleep by 10:30 pm.

What do you wear to work?

I gave up dresses for work a long time ago - actually in 1998 when I became City Manager of Pasadena.  Before that it was always suits with skirts.  But I had to move too quickly and keep up with too many tall people (I am 5’3” when I stand up really tall).  I kept the heels for a while but eventually they went too - they can slow you down.  Casual slacks, tees or a shirt, a non-fitted jacket and loafers are the official uniform today.  It works anywhere in LA.

What's one of the biggest challenges about your job?

Staying focused.  There is so much happening in our offices all the time which is fun and exciting but you have to guard against being sidetracked.

What's one of the most rewarding parts about your job?

Watching people realize the potential of the Los Angeles River.  Often it starts with “LA has a River?” and concludes with the excitement of what the River can mean for all of us.

What does an Untucked life mean to you?

Being comfortable in your clothing and with yourself.

From your experience, what can we learn from you today? 

When you work, put everything into it.  Work hard and make things happen.  Don’t just let them happen.

Balance that with time off - off the phone, off the computer and if possible off the continent.  My husband and I chase total solar eclipses.  They have taken us to China, Russia, Australia, Greece, Colombia, Venezuela, Turkey, Panama, South Africa, Zambia, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia and other wonderful places. When we are away, we forget about work and LA and just enjoy the food, people and culture of where we are at the moment.  We always come home with a refreshed perspective on our lives and our work.

What are you following these days...

I am a political junkie.  Who isn’t these days but I have been for a long time.  I follow POLITICO and The Hill.  Some days they make you laugh - some days they make you cry.  Some days you just aren’t sure which way you feel.                .