Women’s History Month Q&A Series: Simone McFarland

Simone McFarland has served as Burbank's Assistant Director of Business and Economic Development and Public Information Officer since 2017. (photo courtesy of the City of Burbank)

Simone joined the City of Burbank as the Assistant Director of Business and Economic Development and Public Information Officer in 2017. In her roles, she manages economic development, homelessness, public information, housing, and real estate. Some of her achievements involve aiding the Burbank City Council in establishing the objective to add 12,000 new housing units to the city within the next 15 years, as well as supervising the Section 8 housing and homelessness programs.

Here, she discusses the love she has for public service, her interest in mentoring women who are just taking off in their careers, and why it’s important to enjoy the process of going after your goals.

What has your career path been like getting to your current role with the City of Burbank?

My career has been circuitous. I’ve owned two businesses (one of these was a construction company), worked for startups and nonprofits, processed residential loans and even began my career in the defense industry. Through it all, I’ve returned to government work, as service to others is extremely rewarding. Additionally, during this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work for the cities of Riverside, Murrieta, Sierra Vista, Ariz. and the County of San Bernardino, all in economic development, marketing and public information. All of these experiences have made me a better leader and contribute to my skill set today, which includes economic development, housing, real estate, homelessness and public communications. 

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

I love working with my team and making a difference. My team is dynamic, professional and extremely dedicated to making Burbank a better place. This includes people I partner with outside of the city organization. I love to watch and help people succeed both at work and at home. At the same time, I enjoy the ability to make things better for our community businesses and residents, whether it’s helping to recruit a new company that will provide jobs, helping a homeless person find shelter, supporting the development of new housing or ensuring that the city is clearly communicating important information. It is all important to me. 

How does it feel to be a female serving in a leadership position for the city?

I’m very lucky to be serving the City of Burbank. This city has so much going for it and it’s an exciting time with development happening and the growth of media. I feel extremely fortunate to have been the public information officer during the pandemic while at the same time working in community development. At this point in my career, I think it’s important to mentor others, particularly other women. There are so many strong, dynamic women in our community who are either just starting off or are reaching their stride. I want to be able to share ideas and use my past experiences to help them be successful. 

Which women in your life have inspired you the most to go after your goals?

I’ve been lucky to have two best friends during my adult life who have provided wisdom and guidance. They have been my rocks, supporting me when things got tough and celebrating when things are good. One of them passed away a number of years ago but the other is still here, helping me to keep perspective and cheering me on. In addition, I have had some amazing women supervisors who have really inspired me and have helped me with my career. My city manager in Murrieta, Lori Moss, and in Sierra Vista, Mary Jacobs. Here in Burbank, Judie Wilke has been amazing along with all of the other women executives we have here.

What advice would you impart to young girls pursuing their dreams?

Goals and dreams have no time limits and you can have it all, but not always at the same time. Focus on what’s currently most important to you, and as those priorities change, so will your success in that area. Too often, I think we as women feel guilty about not doing enough. While we are working, we worry about doing more for our kids, significant others and the extended family. While we are with them, we worry about our career and being professional or successful. Often, we are in such a hurry to achieve all of our goals, we miss out on the satisfaction of the process of moving toward them.