I Wanna Be a Bison

Posted on September 18, 2023

A bison in front of Sal Pagliara City Hall.

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Jackie Wehmeyer, Senior Director of Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs for the City of Parkland, Florida. Parkland was named one of the Best Places to Work in Local Government in 2021 by ELGL and a Top Workplace in 2022. Connect with Jackie on LinkedIn.


What I’m reading: Greedy Bastards: One City’s Texas-Size Struggle to Avoid a Financial Crisis by Sheryl Sculley

What I’m watching: Finally, the last season of Succession. I’m sooo close to the end. My first true experience of Schadenfreude.

What I’m cooking: Tonight it’s Quinoa Albondigas. My daughter has decided to become a vegetarian, and I’m trying to keep up.


I wanna be a bison.

We returned from an epic summer vacation a few weeks ago, where we flew into Bozeman, Montana, then drove into Wyoming and through Yellowstone, visited Arches and Canyonland in Utah, and ended in Las Vegas. The drive, hikes, and exploration were beautiful, and we saw many things we don’t typically experience in Southeast Florida.

One of the highlights came on the morning we drove out of Yellowstone. There they were as we went around the bend into a meadowy break. Hundreds of bison.

Although we’d seen a few during our stay there, this herd was humongous. It blocked the road and covered the hills for miles. Sitting in “bison traffic,” we watched them mosey past our vehicle, grunting at us invading their space. My daughter implored me to keep the window rolled up as a particularly large bull approached us and bellowed. It was amazing to experience these giants as close as we did, without being chased after and gored.

They were majestic. They were imposing. I was smitten. I felt a kinship that I couldn’t explain. 

It took until recently for me to realize that I know these bison. I work beside them every day. This may render a reasonable suspicion drug test (which I will pass) and be an even bigger stretch than Mark McGrath calling me old, but a great local government organization is like a bison herd. Here’s why:

  1. Bison are impressive animals that symbolize strength and resiliency. Bison have been an essential part of the American landscape for thousands of years and have survived and thrived despite numerous challenges and threats. Like bison, our fellow employees have learned to adapt to changing environments and conditions, work together as a team, and overcome obstacles that come our way. Local government employees are tough under challenging conditions when they need to be to get the job done.
  1. Bison are fast, formidable, and agile. Don’t be fooled by the size of bison, as they are no lumbering slowpokes. Bison are fast enough to run 45 mph for five miles, keeping up with some elk, moose, and coyotes. And although they usually amble around leisurely, bison can also jump fences and swim. In a great organization, employees know how to navigate obstacles to provide continuous excellent service. Half of the Streets crew out with COVID? Facilities steps in to cover. Hurricane approaching? We’re already prepared.
  1. Bison protect their herd collectively. When bison are threatened by predators, they form a protective multilayer circle, working together to ward off danger. Just as bison work together within a herd for protection and survival, local government employees must collaborate and work together to achieve common goals in the workplace. Teamwork and cooperation are essential for success and a more robust organizational herd.
  1. Bison are the original trailblazers. Bison migration created enduring trails, giving hunters and pioneers paths to follow when they pounded the ground through territories with their hooves. Some of those trails eventually became the roads and railways we use today. In great organizations, employees share and collaborate, breaking down unnecessary barriers, taking risks, and showing the way with sustainability.

Let’s continue encouraging great people to be a part of our herd. The one that serves the community with strength, agility, cooperation, and planning for the future. I wanna be a bison.

One bison grazing in a meadow.

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