Luckily for the Verdugo Workforce Development Board nominating committee, WIOA does not require members to have experience in a majority of the Board’s areas of service and responsibility: public and private sectors, business, labor, individual job seekers, and fostering career pathways in public schools. But if it did, Debbie Kukta would more than qualify, with a resume that includes more than 25 years in manufacturing, seven years on the Burbank school board, work as a CPA and managing commercial real estate, and since 2012, serving as the Burbank City Treasurer.
Kukta, who started her service on the VWDB in 1999, did not set out on a clearly defined career path toward chairing the VWDB, nor did she aim to become City Treasurer. “I would never have imagined handling all those investments!” Kukta told me when we met recently for breakfast. But she appreciates how her variety of experience, combined with a willingness to take on new challenges, paved the way to her current responsibilities.
Kukta and her sister grew up amid family discussions about Trojan Rivet, the manufacturing company her grandfather opened in Burbank in 1950. She believes it was there she learned the work ethic that drove her grandfather and drives her still. In that setting she also developed an interest in business that led her to a degree in business administration/ accounting and certification as a public accountant.
She points to her first “real” job, where she audited cities and learned about fund accounting, as one that would prove beneficial years later in her work as City Treasurer and as VWDB chair.
Over the course of 25 years at Trojan Rivet, as she and her sister eventually assumed management of the company, Kukta gained valuable insights into the worlds of manufacturing and human resources that are so critical to the mission of the VWDB. “We did everything,” Kukta told me, from learning about the chemical analysis of metals to measurements of tensile strength. And when the Great Recession came, and they decided to sell the business to a friendly if far-off competitor, they also learned how it felt to lay off employees—an experience that helps her support the VWDB’s layoff aversion and response efforts.
Kukta was a natural, too, to chair the Verdugo School-to-Career Coalition, after years volunteering in PTA and Boy Scouts, and then as an elected member of Burbank’s Board of Education. Asked her advice to students, she suggested that in meeting a new challenge, they “attack it,” she says. “You don’t know where it may lead you.” And, she adds, “You have to love what you do.”
We’re glad the challenges Kukta undertook brought her to the VWDB.
–Joylene Wagner (former colleague on the VWDB and the 5-Star Coalition of School Boards)