Today’s Buzz is by Caz R. Muske, Main Street Manager, City of Brenham, TX (Twitter & LinkedIn)
What I am watching: Workin’ Moms (looking forward to the release of season 3 on 8/29!!!)
What I am reading: The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century by Alexander Garvin
Newest Discovered Podcast: Mythology
Our band of Local Gov’t MISFITS has now increased to 3!
My last #MorningBuzz was about Ashely Levin – an aspired justice-seeking librarian who became Mayor of Halloween City to now: the Apocalyptic Project Manager for Troy, Michigan. Well, something along the lines. Embrace her full story here.
Today, we are graced by the Katie Babits, Diversity and Partner Collaboration Manager at SGR. She is a cool cat from Missouri who also unexpectedly prowled her way to local government (LG). Here’s our Q&A correspondence:
Caz: As a kid, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?
Katie: I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don’t, but we’ll get to that later. But I had an idea of what I wanted to be. I was always picking different jobs that women “couldn’t” do. I was going to be the first female president, a professional baseball player, a firefighter. But I could never settle on one for long. I just knew that women in non-traditional roles inspired me (although I probably phrased it differently when I was 8).
A pivotal moment was the 1990 election for Oregon Governor. I stayed up so late, sitting cross-legged in front of the TV watching the votes roll in. My mom forced me to go to bed, even though I reasoned with her that this moment would go down in history & I needed to watch it. She didn’t crumble to my argument, but when I woke up the next morning, Barbara Roberts was the first woman to be Governor of the great State of Oregon. #FunFact at #ELGL15 at McMenamins Edgefield, that little girl grew up to introduce Governor Barbara Roberts to the crowd of fellow #localgov nerds. To this day it is one of the greatest highlights of my life.
What’s your LG Misfit Story?
I didn’t set out to be in local government. In truth, I didn’t much know how it functioned, because I grew up in an unincorporated area on a farm surrounded by many other unincorporated areas. I went to grad school for global studies, & I wanted to work for NGOs around the world. After my first semester, I went to Mexico and was talking to locals about their president, who had been fighting to take the country back from drug cartels. One conversation changed my entire life path: Eduardo told me that in theory, the ideology was great. But the drive was at the national level, and most of the corruption happened much lower down the ladder. He said that in order for the country to be successful against the cartels, the buy in, dedication, and sheer numbers of people doing the work had to be at the local level. True change happens at the local level. It was like he shook me into reality. If I was going to hop around from country to country like a fairy princess bringing in aid, I would be a mere drop in a bucket and I would always leave. No doubt I would be doing good work, but what about lasting impact? I came home and changed my master’s from global studies to an MPA with a focus on local government management, because I could never forget Eduardo’s words: true change happens at the local level.
Now that you fell into LG – do you know what your end career goal is?
As someone who works to build up a workforce that reflects the communities in which we serve, bringing more people of color, LGBTQ, women and other underrepresented populations into high-level roles, I feel like my answer should be: I’m going to be a City Manager. But I can’t say that it’s my focus and that everything I do is to prepare me for the role. I love local government because I fall in love with the services we get to provide for our fellow community members. It’s the way Leslie Knope loves everything about Pawnee, even though in her case there are significant challenges to being able to bring everything she wants to her fellow community members.
So I will give you a non-answer: I don’t know what my end career goal is. But I would like to work in every aspect of city government. Let me into public works and see how our streets are maintained, how our rose garden stays so beautiful, and how our staff has heaps of compassion when their jobs sometimes border on social work as they help the unhoused find places to stay. Get me into that recreation team that teaches leadership development on the ropes course up in the trees, provides youth sports all over the city, and delivers adaptive recreation opportunities to serve our whole community. Let me hop in with our officers and our firefighters and see what their world is like, let me tag along with our economic and community development teams and see how they work to make our city evolve in the best way possible. Let me nerd out at city council work sessions that no one else watches with enthusiasm, hang out with the cultural services team that brings free entertainment to the masses, and find out from the behind-the-scenes staff just want it takes to keep a city running. I think I just want to try and work as much in every department so I can truly see what it takes to deliver everything great to a community.
What’s your favorite thing about working in LG?
See my previous response. JK, I can talk about it more. My favorite thing about local government is that we get to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs our community members deserve. It is a constant balance of how creative can we be, with the least amount of money, and the greatest amount of awesome. I love how many people I meet who are just as nerdy about their jobs, and that is why local government is great. We want nerds. We need people who love their jobs so much & they aren’t in it for money, they are in it because they love what they do. That’s who you find in local government.
Lastly, what’s something noteworthy about SGR?
I ran into SGR at an ELGL conference, and the company seemed to approach HR and local government from an innovative perspective that moved at the rapidly changing pace of local government. SGR worked with partners to develop a tool that masks identifying information in the early stages of the recruitment process to reduce impacts of implicit bias in the hiring process. It’s like they merged online dating with local government recruiting. That speaks so deeply to the nerd in me who loves to talk about recruiting, local government, AND developing candidate pools and workforces that match the makeup of the community being served.
My favorite part of Katie’s interview is knowing I had the privilege of cyber-meeting the 2028 President of the United States. Okay, maybe not. But I guarantee if she wanted to, she could achieve it! Which leads me to the reasoning behind my feature image, reading: ‘GIRL BOSS’. Both Katie and Ashely process the admirable qualities of: passion, adaptability, and determination. They found an industry that peaked their interest – igniting their passion. Without fear, changed their career course while adapting to a new industry. Then, with determination, became specialists in their fields. Furthermore, they are not finished making their mark.
I greatly enjoyed meeting these two girl bosses, who are now a part of my LG Misfit Fam. I look forward to meeting future misfits!
Interested in sharing your story? Email me! @ [email protected]