Lessons From A Local Gov In Love

Posted on April 27, 2022

wedding rings
Today’s Buzz is by Meredith Reynolds, Deputy City Manager for Recovery for the City of Long Beach. Follow Meredith on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. 
What I’m Listening to: my 40 for 40: Love Songs playlist of my top 40 favorite love songs
(creating playlists during the pandemic was a tangible thing I could control, so I created 40 playlists with 40 songs each to commemorate my 40th year on the planet even when celebrated in quarantine)

What I’m Doing: Celebrating my seventh wedding anniversary
(technically our anniversary is on 4/24, but I’m the one in the relationship
who can never remember the exact date, so I’m saving it here for posterity)

What I’m Drinking: a fine Pinot Noir selected from a Sonoma County winery
in my newest gifted wine glass (more on that later)

Never date someone you work with they said. Relationships can get complicated and breakups can get messy they said. Apparently, I didn’t listen. But to be fair, I wasn’t actively trying to ignore tried and true advice. At the time, I had never dated anyone I’ve worked with before, I swore I would never date from within the workplace, and I never thought I would meet my future spouse at work. Welp….

The Office Jim And Pam GIF - The Office Jim And Pam What No GIFs

So the story goes, my then-future-husband and I worked in different areas of a local government organization, but our paths crossed on some key projects where I learned how intelligent, witty and talented he was. He understood people, could anticipate the politics, and enjoyed working on complex land use issues and solving development problems. He was a Commissioner whisperer, aligning appointed officials behind important land-use recommendations that improved my community. He was approachable with callers who inquired about whether zoning allowed for raising goats in their backyard. He could connect how land use policy needed to be written to be able to be practically applied to real-life development projects. And he understood permit fee trends and could prepare an entire enterprise fund budget in his head. Did I mention that he had a great radio voice on the Council dais? I know, I know… swoon. It was not love at first sight (what even is that?!?), we just had a lot in common and we were just friends for several years…until we weren’t.

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Looking back, I wasn’t paying attention because I was focused on my career, passionate about public service, and working long, hard hours. I haven’t been known to quickly pick up the cues from the fellas.  But I do remember our conversations were regularly deep, captivating, and, you guessed it, about local government. What can I say, I can sure pick ‘em. I guess you love who you love.

Jim And Pam The Office GIF - Jim And Pam The Office GIFs

I can honestly say that his understanding of what I do, why I care so deeply, and the pressures and expectations of the work is one of the main reasons our relationship works – I can’t even imagine a scenario where I have a spouse that didn’t get that about me.

Air Five GIF - The Office Pam Beasley Jim Halpert GIFs

This year we celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary with a trip to California’s wine country, our happy place, and the place we got married. (Apparently, the 7th is the copper and wool anniversary – who decides this stuff?- and you’re welcome to those who have a 7th coming up.) Here I had time to reflect on how to turn this topic into a Morning Buzz, because what better way to say ‘happy anniversary’ to one’s spouse than to celebrate Local Gov Love with fellow ELGL’ers.

In honor of seven years of being married, here are seven things I’ve learned from my husband Derek that are also relevant local gov leadership lessons (as articulated by song titles).

#1  Your Mess is Mine (Vance Joy)
The cool thing about being married is you become part of your own special team. And like with any team, you accept the love and fun along with the discomfort and mess. And it can get really messy sometimes. You focus on the big picture and mutual values, find ways to communicate and support each other and work through issues with respect. This is also true of working with teams in local government.

#2   Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes (Michael Buble & Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings)
Being uplifted by my spouse brings me confidence. Encouragement helps to feel seen and heard and this is equally important among your immediate staff team and in the local gov workplace from the top down, especially when many of us only hear the negative complaints from constituents. Hearing that you’ve got what it takes can fill the cup and help us return to work and life the next day to do our best.

#3   Joyful Girl (Soulive & Dave Matthews – an Ani Difranco cover)
In 2013 my husband left work in local government after about a decade to start his own planning and development firm. Working in the development industry was something that was always a goal of his and he put in the work to make this intentional move to set up his company. Now that he does what he loves, he enjoys life so much more. Doing what you love makes you joyful – we spend so much time at work that we should do what we love. 

#4   Colors of You (Austin Cain)
I like to surround myself with those that make me better and my husband is one of those people. He keeps me on my toes and I’m always learning, which for someone who is intellectually curious is a must in our relationship. I have many of these same folks in my workplace – my “coalition of the willing” and I’m better for knowing and learning from them. Surround yourself with colleagues who love all of your colors and help you shine brighter.

#5   When You Need Me (Bruce Springsteen)
My husband provides me a lot of support when the job gets me down. Because he knows the players and has experience both inside and doing business with the local government organization, his sage advice and guidance is particularly helpful. Find your support network – people who are good listeners, who can understand the context and know you well, who can give meaningful advice and share their wisdom to offer support when needed. 

#6   Satisfied Mind (Jeff Buckley – a Porter Wagoner cover)
My husband is one of the most grounded people I know. He is balanced, patient, calm, and sensible. Aside from sensible, I am truly none of those other things. He focuses on what he can control in life. Once he makes a decision, he moves forward and doesn’t seem to second guess his path. Having this mentality as one-half of our partnership also helps me practice patience, focus on what I can control, and not second guess my path. This type of influence is also a good thing in our work and having someone who is different from you can be a good learning experience.

#7   Good Times (Sam Cooke)
Finding ways to make the most of each other’s company makes partnership fun. Whether small triumphs or large feats, I can’t wait to tell him about my day. This small ritual we practice is meaningful and helps us celebrate each other’s good times. ‘Good Times’ also happens to be the song we danced to at our wedding, which was another celebration of good times. And in local government, sometimes you just need an epic get-together with a bunch of your favorite colleagues with good food, music and conversation to let the good times roll!

I will close by publicly thanking my husband Derek for his patience as I put our love on blast for the local gov universe. There will be eye rolls.

The Office Jim Halpert GIF - The Office Jim Halpert This Is Gonna Be Awful GIFs

In my defense, he has been featured on the ELGL GovLove podcast on the GovLove In Love series. And he gave me an inspirational wine glass saying ‘After 7 years you’re still the best wife, keep that sh*t up!” so I must be doing alright!

Jim And Pam GIF - The Office Jim Halpert Pam Beesly GIFs

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