Dr. Penelope Culbreth-Graft, “Penny,” is a retired city manager (ICMA-CM) and former University professor. She served over 32 years in 11 cities and one Indian Reservation. Her positions included City Manager and Assistant City Manager for cities, ranging in population from 12,000 to 1.2 million in California, Arizona, and Colorado. Working as the Tribal Government Manager for an Indian Reservation in Southern California, she started a democratic government from the ground up. Penny taught public administration for five universities in California and Colorado. She has a Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of La Verne; a Master of Public Administration from the California State University Consortium; and, a Bachelor of Science in Social Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. She and her husband, William, live in Colorado.
Penny is one of three generations of public servants. Her mother and father served as sworn peace officers—her mother for a county sheriff’s department and her father for a city police department. Her son works as a Finance and Budget Program Administrator for a Colorado city.
After 32 years of public service, Penny stepped down from local government and began caring full-time for her husband, a disabled Vietnam Veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For three years, during William’s rehabilitation from two major surgeries, Penny began writing and painting—life-long desires that were on hold while serving her communities. With new purpose as caregiver for her husband, her love for cities continues to shine through her writing and art.
Penny recently finished her first book, a historical suspense novel set in San Diego, California—one of the cities she served in during her career. She is seeking publication of this novel and two more, which are set in two other cities where she served in local government management. Penny is also working on a memoire about her two-time Purple Heart husband and a leadership book about lessons learned from local government management.
While a novice at art, Penny loves painting in oil and acrylics. Her work in cities serves as inspiration for her paintings. She is learning to paint genre scenes, which feature daily city life and enjoys abstract art, creating a line of paintings with embedded shorthand.