360 Review with Chad Doran, City of Appleton, WI

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance review? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.

Chad on Chad

imagesI’ve always had a passion for sharing information with people. I’m a former TV News reporter transitioning into a local government communications guy. I spent the first 14-years of my post college career in the TV news business. I’m now six-months into a brand new position as the Communications Coordinator for Appleton, WI. It’s an easy transition because I was born and raised in WI and spent many years covering the Appleton area in my past career before coming to work for the city.

The Evaluator

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City of Appleton, WI – Communications Coordinator

Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Best part of working in the local government arena.

So far – all of it! I enjoy every minute of my job trying to engage our community in what we are working on. This is uncharted territory for our city. For example, we’ve had social media channels for a number of years, but did not do a good job of utilizing them. One of my priorities is making sure we put a big focus on it going forward. I spend a portion of each day building engagement through our social media platforms. We’re also building a brand new website and working toward a number of other transparency projects that will allow our citizens to not only better engage with us, but help us with solutions to problems.

Most frustrating?

The pace. Coming from the fast-paced world I used to live in with daily deadlines, sometimes the pace of getting things done in the local government world can be hard to swallow. The meetings and layers of approval are something I am getting used to, but I also see the value the slow, methodical approach can have.

(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the….aol

  • 80’s was……. Being a kid when life seemed so much simpler and black and white.
  • 90’s was…… Seeing the world open up as the internet became popular. I remember Netscape was THE browser back in the day and getting those AOL CD’s in the mail offering free hours of internet access.
  • 00’s was….. Being out on my own and learning something new each day.
  • Last year was….. Christmas in Door County, WI. #MustSeeDestination
  • Today is…. My job. I love walking in the door of City Hall every day and saying… “What can I share with the community today?”

Your hometown? What is it best known for?

Shawano, WI.  Shawano Lake. Look it up, great fishing and recreation. People come from as far as Chicago and probably beyond to spend weekends there.

Which bands would play at your retirement party? U2 if they are still rocking a few decades from now.

Best holiday gift that you’ve received? Given?

optimus-prime-o

One that really sticks out is an Optimus Prime Transformers toy from when I was little. Must have something to do with the current theme of my professional life, transforming into public sector service and transforming the way we communicate

Sentiment over value. My wife loves jewelry and I bought her a Pandora charm bracelet a few years ago. It’s fun to add to it as life events happen for us. Recently one of my favorite gifts given was to my 4-year-old son when he got a toy garbage truck last Christmas. I’ll never forget the look on his face. He plays with it nearly every day.

The Evaluation

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Describe the current state of local government.

On the right track. I’m seeing it’s not easy for local government to step outside that box of “this is how it’s done.” But that’s not good enough anymore. Citizens are demanding better solutions to problems. I’m becoming a firm believer that they have the ability to help solve those problems…we just have to let them.

Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.

  • Creating efficiencies to do more with less revenue
  • Providing quality services
  • Public-private partnerships

Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.

  • Communication
  • Transparency
  • Opening up our data to let the citizen problem-solvers help us.

Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.Appleton City Hall_JPG_475x310_q85

I think generally, there is still a great deal of hesitancy. In Appleton I think we are ahead of some others in that we are taking steps to embrace technology to put it to work for us. But compared to the private sector, local government as a whole are pretty far behind.

For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?

Going forward it’s the new reality of doing more with less. Fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets will build citizen confidence.

Evaluate whether local government is prepared for the ongoing wave of retirements.

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I’d have to say no. I don’t think it’s so much the retirements that are the worry. It’s finding young people interested in the public service track. Whether that’s finance, public works, community development or a host of others, the private sector is luring the top talent. Local governments need to work harder  to entice the best and brightest to help serve the greater good.

Wave a magic wand – what three wishes would you grant local government?

  • Google Fiber
  • Citywide WiFi
  • Greater flexibility to find new revenue sources

Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.

downloadObviously what happens at the state and federal levels impact local governments as well. We’re pretty far removed from things in Washington D.C. but I think if local governments don’t work closely with state, citizens suffer the most. Government at its core is local and goes up from there, not the other way around.

What question(s) should we have asked?

How are you reaching out to increase community engagement and transparency. Being new to public service, I see this as one of the biggest hurdles to overcoming the “they’ll just do whatever they want anyway” stigma attached to government – local or otherwise. I’m really interested in learning how other cities are leading the way in this area.

Supplemental Reading 

Other Evaluations

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