Community and Title:
City of Manhattan, KS
Assistant City Manager
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, University of Missouri – Columbia
Master of Public Affairs, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University – Bloomington
Previous Positions and Communities:
City of Des Moines, IA
- Management Intern: 6/28/04-6/28/05
- Management Assistant: 7/1/05-12/30/05
- Management Analyst: 1/1/06-1/28/08
Brief description of current job duties:
My primary responsibilities include economic development, legislative relations, and labor relations. I staff the City-University Special Projects Fund Committee and serve as a liaison to the Riley County Police Department. I support the City Manager in general administration of the day-to-day operations of the city, including personnel management, budget oversight and planning, strategic planning, Commissioner relations, external relations, and media relations.
I did not have local government in mind as a career when I went to graduate school. Fortunately, one of my professors was a former city manager who opened me up to the profession. As a political science student at Mizzou, I had worked and interned in state and federal government, but was never exposed in a meaningful way to local government. We have to do more to help young people find this career path.
After grad school, I accepted a management internship with the City of Des Moines, IA. It was such a great experience. Des Moines was a wonderful place to learn, grow, and contribute. I have a good friend and former colleague from Des Moines who grew up in Council Grove, KS, and was familiar with Manhattan. When my predecessor was leaving, this friend suggested I consider applying for my current position. I was not actively looking for other opportunities, and had no special connection to Manhattan or Kansas, but I took a chance and applied. Once I learned more about this thriving community and the exceptional professional I was supposed to replace, I never thought I would get an interview, let alone be offered the job! I am fortunate to have received great opportunities, but I had to step up to take them. Most of my grad school friends went to exotic places like Washington, D.C. and Chicago after graduation. I got some strange looks when I told people I was headed to Iowa (where?), but I have never regretted that decision. When talking about my move to Manhattan, I often tell people that I’m glad I didn’t know what it would be like, because I don’t think I would have had the guts to take the job. Thank goodness I did. There were growing pains, but I can’t imagine a better opportunity at a better time.
My husband is a former city planner who now works in GIS and real property for the U. S. Army Garrison at nearby Fort Riley. Our marriage has been fostered by a mutual devotion to public service.
Paul and I don’t have children of our own, but we love to spend time with our five nieces and two nephews. We also enjoy mentoring our “little brother” Christopher, a sixth grader here in Manhattan.
Something Most Folks Don’t Know About You:
One of the nerdy things about me is that I want to visit all of the state capitols. I think I’m up to about 30.
We are working to recruit the City’s first international economic development prospect, a biotechnology company from India that wants to break into North American markets. We have worked hard to structure a low-risk incentive package that has significant potential for positive return to the community. However, it has been a challenge working through language and cultural barriers to help communicate the value to the City Commission and the public.
Who do you consider to be influential in your career and what is something you have learned or are learning from them?
Many people come to mind. Orville Powell (graduate professor) first encouraged me to consider city management. I have worked for three city managers who are all talented in very different ways. Each took a personal interest in my career and professional development. My first manager, Eric Anderson, created a safe environment for me to take risks and experience failure. My current boss, Ron Fehr, is a creative, visionary leader and a genuinely great person to boot. He is teaching me every day about the importance of building and sustaining relationships, both internal and external. Several department heads and deputy/assistant managers in both Des Moines and Manhattan have supported and encouraged me in countless ways.
I always thought it would be fun to “give back” to my hometown someday (Joplin, MO). When the city was devastated last spring by a tornado, part of me really wished I was on staff and could jump into problem solving and the recovery effort.
Honestly, I have my dream job. Someday I hope to be ready to make the move into a city manager position, but Manhattan has been so good to us. It is the right fit for right now.
Democracy at the Doorstep Impact: What do you consider to be your personal contribution to Democracy?
Sometimes it is hard to live in a community, and to have personal hopes and dreams about the place you live, but to work with elected officials who may not share your vision. My professional oath is simply to trust the wisdom of the voters and use my position to help the manager help the elected officials achieve their goals. Sometimes that is hard, but when I set aside my personal feelings and concentrate on my professional duty, I am always rewarded. When democracy is in action, things tend to work out for the best.
Advice for other young professionals?
Find great mentors.
Understand and adhere to the ICMA Code of Ethics.
Take calculated risks. Don’t be afraid to fail; that’s how we learn.
Work harder than anyone else in the office, and volunteer for the assignments no one else wants.
Learn how to respectively, but confidently, express an alternative opinion to your boss.
Make peace with your co-workers.