LG Misfits Academy: Now Accepting Applications

Posted on July 16, 2019


Today’s Buzz is by Caz R. Muske | Main Street Manager – City of Brenham, TX (Twitter, LinkedIn)

Okay, I’m not actually accepting applications; however, if you’d like to share your non-conventional entry into local government – I’m all ears! #SorryForTheFauxHype

My name is Caz and I am a local government (LG) misfit. The LG gods did not call upon me and convince me to study public administration or political science as my undergrad.

Nor did I have any clue what exactly LG was 5 years ago. I fell face first into the profession seeking a change of pace – a change of career. Naturally, the most fascinating component of LG – to me – is the stories: The stories of my peers, my mentors, my network of how they began their life’s journey in LG.

After discovering #MorningBuzz, I was excited to have a valid excuse to ask a bunch of questions to a bunch of strangers. Ashley Levin volunteered to become my first victim [insert evil laugh]. Actually, she’s my first muse. She’s the Project Manager for the City of Troy, Michigan and she’s pretty awesome. Here’s our Q&A correspondence:

As a kid, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?

As a kid I wanted to be everything under the sun. I had a stint where I played ‘librarian’ a lot. Then it was teacher and ultimately landed on lawyer although I did not enter college with the intent of getting my law degree. I hoped college would open my eyes to my dream career so I went in with an open mind.

What’s your LG Misfit Story?

I had just graduated college (super senior status) with a degree in Psychology and Urban & Regional Studies and was like cool I graduated now what? I took the first job I could get which was working for Party City’s corporate office. I got hired for a temporary position as a Project Coordinator in the Permitting and Signage Department. I knew nothing about permitting or signage but was pretty geeked about my first office job. I learned I would be working with a team to open all of the ‘Halloween City’ stores. I was put on a team that handled the central region of the US.

And so it began… I was handed a stack of papers for each city in the central region where a Halloween City store would be opened. My task was to contact each municipality and find out which type of permits and inspections were required for each location – Certificate of Occupancy, Special Use permits, Temporary Use permits, fire inspections – you name it, I had to apply for it. Once that part was out of the way I had to determine which size sign would fit each building, apply for the appropriate permits, and ensure that our signs fit their color and size restrictions.

This led me to discover ordinances and charters! I (oddly) loved researching the permitting requirements for all of these cities. Each one had its own unique set of rules and I had to figure out how to mash my puzzle piece into their puzzle. I absolutely loved the challenge and grew to love talking to city officials and reading codes & charters (weird, right?!).

Fast forward a few months and I was chatting with a friend about my job and she asked what I planned to do when the position ended, as it was temporary. I said I wasn’t sure and she suggested I check out an advanced degree in Public Administration. I got accepted into a Master’s program and shortly after beginning my first semester of my graduate program was offered an internship with the City of Troy in the Department of Public Works.

Five years later, I’ve moved up but I’m still here! I never would have thought a temporary job at Party City would have led me here or to a career in local government.

Now that you fell into LG – do you know what your end career goal is?

This is a great question that my boss asks me all the time. Honestly, I don’t have an answer. I know there are certain areas of LG that I’m not interested in but I’m not quite sure what my end goal is. I do like Public Works and would probably stay in that realm, but I do not have a specific end career goal at this time.

I’m pretty lucky in that my current roles affords me opportunities to get involved on a wide range of projects. I’ve done everything from run a crowdfunding campaign to manage $5 million in construction projects to assist in developing a dog park from a vacant piece of land. Sky’s the limit!

What’s your favorite thing about working in LG?

I love interacting with residents (usually hehe). I love the opportunity to explain why we do something the way we do or an opportunity to educate someone on local government. I love giving great customer service and walking away from an interaction knowing that I was not the stereotypical red-tape shrouded public servant that doesn’t care about residents.

I also really love having the opportunity to get out into the community  and chat with people. Even if it’s a complaint, I love hearing what people think about their local government. And even better if I can turn a complaint into a positive experience or take it back to our team and learn how we can do something better.

Lastly, what’s something noteworthy about the City of Troy, Michigan?

Ooof this is hard. Honestly, the least boring thing I can come up with is Steven Yeun from the Walking Dead is from Troy. Other than that, people love the fact that we have the Somerset Collection which is a ‘world class shopping center’ AKA fancy mall.

It has a skywalk that goes over our major road and over 180 stores. People travel from all over the place to visit. https://www.thesomersetcollection.com/

The highlight of our conversation is she worked for THE Halloween City, which is easily the coolest municipality to work for. Also, she works for the city that birthed one the most legendary zombie hunters. R.I.P Glenn Rhee [Insert appropriate moment of silence for the fallen Walking Dead unsung heroes].

On a lighter note, I look forward to discovering more LG Misfits and sharing their stories.

Interested in sharing your story? Email me! @ cazmus@alumni.psu.edu

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