I Have to Ask: Starting a New Job During COVID-19

Posted on July 26, 2020

Michael Montgomery

In this series, guest columnists choose to reflect on one of three prompts provided by ELGL Co-Founder Kent Wyatt. This week, Michael Montgomery, Deputy City Council Administrator for Colorado Springs, Colorado, writes about transitioning to a new job during COVID-19.

In 2012, I left Colorado to pursue my Master of Public Administration at the University of North Texas. At the time, I told my girlfriend (now wife) that we would only be in Texas two or three years. That ended up being a lie as I found out quickly that Texas provides some of the best local government opportunities. Fast-forward to the fall of 2019 when I started applying for jobs to return to Colorado. After countless applications (applying for jobs in another state is a whole different post), I was fortunate to land as the Deputy City Council Administrator with the City of Colorado Springs.

I was offered the position on Friday, March 13th, right on the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Over the next four weeks I wrapped up my duties with the Town of Bartonville, worked through the logistics of moving during a pandemic, and worried if I was still going to have a job when I arrived in Colorado. Luckily my new supervisor did an excellent job of communicating with me throughout the process and re-assured me I would start as planned in mid-April.

My first day on the job was unlike any other first day. I met a co-worker at the deserted City Hall, was issued my City laptop, and sent home to work. Later that afternoon, the entire department hopped on a conference video chat and I was able to meet everyone. It is amazing how technology has allowed for the continuation of work.

The two projects I was assigned right away were to evaluate and recommend improvements to our administration of all City Council appointed Boards and Commissions as well as development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for our department.

While working at the Town of Bartonville, I helped administer four Boards and Commissions. The City of Colorado Springs has 31 Council appointed Boards and Commissions and nine special districts. I have been tasked with creating a training manual for appointed members as well as staff liaisons. We are also trying to use technology to streamline appointments, attendance tracking, agenda postings, and rosters.

Through the first month, we have been using Microsoft Teams to interview candidates to fill vacancies. In my opinion, this has modernized the process for both the Council and the applicant. Rather than everyone coming to City Hall, the interview panel and applicant just hop on a 15 minute call. This is a huge time saver.

Operational continuity is a topic that is often discussed but rarely executed. COVID-19 is a wake-up call that everyone in your department needs to prepare and make their SOPs readily available. Additionally, team members should cross-train in each other’s duties to stay ready if called upon. I will be working with our team to get these in place as soon as possible.

While I do not recommend transition job during a global pandemic, I am extremely joyful that I landed my dream job.Stop by and say hello if you ever find yourself in Olympic City USA. Also, I am always on the hunt for the best pizza in America, drop me your favorite spot on Twitter @PizzzaMike

Supplemental Reading

Exclusive: Paving for Pizza in Bartonville, Texas

#ELGLTakeoverTuesday: Town of Bartonville, Texas

Recap: Strategic Government Resources Conference

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