South Carolina: Katherine Hendricks, City of Pickens Administrator

Fifty Nifty Takeaways

What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from other’s mistakes than yours. With that said, on to the main event, the first ever installment of the Fifty Nifty which has the same feel as Opening Day in baseball, Christmas Eve, the ol’ TGIF on ABC, and the Fiscal (New) Year.

P.S:  Contribute to the Fifty Nifty project by sending those names in your black book to ELGL. Here’s who is on the list so far: Updated 7/1: Contribute to the Fifty Nifty Project

ELGL’s Take on South Carolina

The first stop on the Fifty Nifty tour is to one of the oldest states, South Carolina. What could be more appropriate – the Civil War starts in Fort Sumter, South Carolina and ELGL starts the Fifty Nifty tour in Pickens, South Carolina.

For many Oregonians, South Carolina may seem like a foreign country with odd characters such as Mark Sanford and Pedro from South of the Board. Well, ELGL chooses to associate South Carolina with Charleston, Stephen Colbert’s sister, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Pat Conroy. (Lord of the Discipline is a must read and a good summer read.) We also feel compelled to mention our love of the House of Cards episode where the Gaffney peach is the main character.

We have enlisted Katherine Hendricks, Pickens City Administrator to represent South Carolina in the Fifty Nifty project. Thanks to Justin Powell, Budget Administrator at City of Greenville for the recommendation.

Vitals

Name: Katherine (Brackett) HendricksKatherine (Brackett) Hendricks

Position: City Administrator

Organization: City of Pickens, SC

Prior Experience: Assistant Administrator, City of Pickens and Graduate Assistant, Clemson University

Education: Clemson University, MPA, BA, Political Science

Connect with Katherine: kbrackett@pickenscity.com, LinkedIn

Connect with City of Pickens: Website and Facebook

Cliff Notes on Pickens, SC

The northern tier of Pickens County is home to Jocassee Gorges – more than 30,000 acres of state-protected recreational paradise with boundless hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting and boating opportunities. And resting on Pickens County’s borderline with North Carolina is South Carolina’s highest peak – 3,554-foot Sassafras Mountain.

Just 20 minutes from downtown Pickens, Scenic Highway 11 runs through northern Pickens County, providing easy access to Table Rock State Park and other magnificent sites. Greenville and Anderson are about 30 minutes away on the thriving I-85 corridor and the Pickens County Airport is 6 miles to the south. Clemson University is about 20 minutes away.

The town of Pickens, named for the Revolutionary War hero, General Andrew Pickens, was moved in 1868 from its location on the banks of the Keowee River to this area of natural beauty, with a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so that the County Seat would be near the center of the county.

Lightning Round

Editor’s Note: Katherine prefaced her answers with “I may regret sharing all of this, but its attached!” Let’s find out.

Best piece of advice from your parents.

Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes you have to look hard to understand the why, but you must make it an opportunity.

In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party.

Dave Mathews Band and U2.

(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to……

spend a year traveling all over in Europe, Africa, and Australia.

Most influential book in your life.  

The Little Engine that Could

If you could Facetime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • George Washington
  • Kurt Cobain

Describe the inside of your car:

It’s very clean with the exception of white dog hair. I can’t stand clutter in my car—at all.

What’s the meaning of life?

Live each day like it’s your last because you only get one life.

Q & A

Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in South Carolina.

  • Slowly emerging as a necessary sector to have professionals leading in and assisting Mayors and Councils through the decision making process.
  • Religion, large church presence, and religious beliefs still deeply control the policy process (example- blue laws still in existence)
  • Annexation reform in SC will probably never happen—not even in my long career.

We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government? 

My dream my entire life, believe it or not, was to be an attorney. A prosecutor. I lived for Law and Order and the Socratic style of learning and the debates that came with it.  When I finished my undergrad, I was heartbroken that my LSATS scores weren’t high enough to get me into a top 50 law school. I decided right away if I wasn’t going to a great law school, I wasn’t going at all. I always knew I wanted a higher degree, so I immediately went after my MPA. Immediately I found my passion for local government and realized I was meant to be in this profession. I grew up the daughter of Main Street business owners and with parents who were on school board and ran for state public office. I grew up going to work on campaigns and the Republican State Convention and Rotary Club. Public service and politics is deeply rooted in me.

During graduate school, I took an internship with the City of Pickens. After 1 year, our City Administrator took a new job and I was promoted to an Assistant Administrator. For six months I worked with a retired manager serving as Interim. After 6 months, he handed the reigns to me—at 24 years old. I am still the youngest in the state and some think I was one of the youngest managers in the country at 24.

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

  • Since I have only been doing this four years, my list may seem simple. First, we did an amazing bond refinancing and found money in old escrow accounts that saved the City $1 million dollars simply by financing.
  • Third, just getting recognition from your piers is some times an accomplishment. I was recently asked to assist in a short Council training session, but being asked to speak on government finance by the Municipal Assoc. of SC made me proud and feel like I was on the right track!

We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.  

  • When taking the reins from the former City administrator, I moved way too fast. I should have slowed down and taken more time to talk to him about the political environment and learned from him even after he was gone.
  • Second mistake—avoiding the media. You can run, but you can’t hide. I made a terrible mistake instead of facing the media head on and it’s captured on the internet forever. I have learned from that! One last mistake—make no enemies, you never know where and when you will cross paths again.

Our experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor”. Has this been your experience? How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?  

No one understands what I do. They think I am the Mayor or they don’t know the City from the County. I think the burden rests on me to communicate it to the public. Maybe I should write more articles or go speak to more clubs. I think if we can start to educate better in high school and undergrad, we will help the next generation.

Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?

Yes, I would definitely. I would caution them though that they must have thick skin and they must understand that politics often cloud what seems to make perfect business sense. It is not the private sector!

Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impress.  

  • Please have your thoughts composed.
  • Take a breath and think before you answer a question so you don’t ramble.
  • Dress to impress.
  • Do not come in here in something too casual or too tight or with heels so high you can’t work.  I think it shows common sense and business sense just to get this simple part right!

Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.

Trey Eubanks, City Administrator of Mauldin, SC and dedicated to helping young professionals.

My mother—who made me a strong headed woman. I am fearless because of her encouragement.

My uncle Richard—obsessed with excel budgets for everything—he has made me fiscally responsible first personally, which I think has given me a better lens for the public sector.

(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be …………

so much faster and paperless thanks to electronic submissions and communications between all branches of government. We may be “efficient” by then, but we can’t do it alone—the state and federal government will need to be ready too.

What question(s) should we have asked you?

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What would I say to young professionals and graduate students looking to be a city manager?

I would say to make sure your motivation is deep inside of you. You will instantly learn how much your private sector friends make and you will be beat up on the blogs and in the papers. You must be strong and have a vision that is unwavering. As in Rotary International, city management should be service above self.

Supplemental Reading