I Have to Ask You: Career Influences

In this series, guest columnists respond to one of three topics selected by ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt. This week Tim Gomez, Town of Paradise Valley, AZ, Executive Assistant to Town Manager and Town Council/Deputy Town Clerk, writes about his career influence.


We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

My journey into local government administration has been peculiar, to say the least.  I began entry into adulthood in an undignified manner: failing every class my freshman year of high school.  And I do mean every class.  I am the only person that I have met that failed Physical Education (side note: the only way to fail is to not participate).  I had an indignant attitude towards society, and especially at the concept of education.  This is quite the juxtaposition from my current position in life: one in which I have been able to commit a lifelong pursuit of education, a deep desire to better my community, and a commitment of thirteen years to a post-secondary educational facility.  I was able to turn around a 0.0 GPA into a full tuition scholarship for my undergraduate degree. I often reflect back on my life, and I always try to keep in perspective where I could have ended up and where I was headed.  To say that I was someone in need of inspiration would be an understatement.  Beyond a doubt, I would say that the trajectory of my life was changed by the interaction with multiple local government employees.

For me, a career in local government was never something that happened by accident.  It was a premeditated plan that took multiple years to come to fruition.  My interest in local government began when I used to ditch high school to spend time at my local library.  My inspiration to turn my life around was due in no small part to the availability of my public library, and the dedicated City Hall employees.  Before I was even 18 years old, I knew what I wanted to spend the next 40 years of my life doing.

I had the misfortune of graduating from my undergraduate degree at the height of the recession, and local governments were not only not hiring but many were severely cutting back in terms of personnel.   During my first internship, I began to look around the profession at peers and leaders that stood out. I would cold call them and ask them if I could meet them and pose some questions to them.  At the end of the meeting, I asked who they recommended I meet next.  This “snowball” trial lasted me my first year in the profession.  I looked for qualities that I aspired to possess, and I found them in bunches all over the state.  I met local government professionals that exuded compassion, energy, knowledge and professionalism.  I met professionals that had a servant leadership style and displayed tenacity (or as contemporary society calls it, grit).  At the end of my pilgrimage, I wasn’t left asking “Why would I work for local government?”.  I was asking myself “Why would I work anywhere else?”

Despite popular rhetoric, inspiration is not a passive activity.  You cannot wait around for something to inspire you to act.  Self-help books remain immensely popular due to repeat customers.  Customers who continually seek for external factors to motivate will be left wanting. Do not wait for things to inspire you, go find the things and people that inspire you.  If your dream is a career in local government, you won’t have to look to hard for inspiration!

The following is a list of what I consider to be the three most important mentors during my career as a #LocalGovie.  

Direct Supervisors

Let’s be candid, direct supervisors play the most integral role in the daily operations of an employee.  As the axiom goes, people do not leave positions, they leave supervisors.  There are plenty of great tips and tricks for being an effective leader to the millennial generation (Simon Sinek’s Video is boarding on viral and Alyssa Wolverton’s ELGL post is quite candid).  My own tip for a direct supervisor is allow enough time for your employee to Build Their Own Adventure (think back to the mid 90’s Give Yourself Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine!).  Nothing has inspired me in my nascent career quite like the freedom given to me by my immediate supervisors.  It has allowed me the opportunity to explore, innovate, create, expand and see what areas of local government administration most interest me.  

If you are a direct supervisor, I urge you to consider the profound impact you can have on the development of a young person’s view of the profession.

Local Mentors

Despite their status in the profession and their unbelievably busy schedules, there are so many local mentors that always have time for a little peer-to-peer mentoring and networking help.  Local mentors and state associations are the preeminent resource for talent development and for employee engagement.  

Be a peer or a mentor to the next generation of local govies.  Take them out to lunch.  Guest lecture at a university.  Go to the local conference and introduce yourself to the new faces.  Never forget how your demeanor and actions reflect the entire profession, and how you can be the inspiration for why someone wants to join local government!

Family

Family continue to remind you that no matter how far you make it in your career, you are never too good to take out the trash and wipe your children.  They remind you that there are always chores waiting for you at home!  They are the ones that keep you humble and show you what the true meaning of life is.  A good family is the result of all of your hard work, and they show you what life is truly about.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca