My Life in Presidential Terms with Sarah Medary, City of Eugene, OR

Posted on November 7, 2016

In this series, ELGL members reflect on how their life has changed from 2008 to 2016, and look forward to where they’ll be in 2024. ELGL members can sign up to share their experiences at My Life in Presidential Terms

By Sarah Medary (LinkedIn & Twitter)

In 2008, I wrote two Dear Jon letters.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be selected for either job, but I knew I wanted to work in the City Manager’s Office with our almost brand new City Manager, Jon Ruiz. He was the first person I could see myself in.  The first person who talked about creativity and looking at things differently.  In his first all-city meeting, he rolled out an overhead projector for his presentation.  Yes, in 2008, he rolled out an overhead projector and wrote out a math problem.  I’m pretty sure that’s when “seriously” and “really” started trending.  But then he presented a brain teaser word problem to all employees and invited us to email him with the solution.  He offered to take the first ten people to tea.  There was no discussion of strategic plans, organizational vision, mission or blah, blah, blah.  He just invited us to show up as our authentic, creative selves and be leaders. I wasn’t one of the first ten, but I was still hooked.

In 2008, I learned the power and importance of seeing yourself, and future possibilities, in leadership roles. The day that my brain became aware of what I didn’t have to be and what I might possibly be, was the day I felt an invitation to lead the City. I also learned how important it is to create opportunities for others, especially youth, to see themselves running the world.  That’s the invitation that went viral when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. When he gave his first inaugural speech, he brought hope, possibility and proof that equality is more than a word. He reminded us that “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.” I’m not sure if they are still petty, but I’m ready to move beyond our grievances.

We are just a couple of days from knowing if a second invitation will go out in 2016. An invitation to the girls that says ICYMI, you can be president too.  That’s got to be worth a #BetterThan13Percent and is something I am hoping for. There, I said it. One of the things I’ve learned over the last eight years is the nature of our work keeps our voices dimmed, if not silent. Especially when it comes to politics where the need to be unpolitical is complicated and political. It’s a risk to fully show up. I, like many of you, worry that my future self will be judged by a narrow set of my current self’s words, thoughts, likes, retweets and emoji.  Upside down smiley face?

Speaking of emoji, in 2016 I find myself with kind of a crooked face.  The one that says “it’s complicated.” In some ways, 2016 is back to the future.  I’ve returned to full time Assistant City Manager after a five plus year opportunity to also lead the Planning and Development Department.  I’m physically and emotionally moving back in to the CMO and am excited about what feels like a brand new old job – familiar, but different.  My face is crooked because I’m still taking in what the opportunities and challenges are and am focusing on being present and aware so I can see and feel what emerges for our community and organization. I know I’m at my best when I’m creating opportunities for others.  I’m thinking about the invitations I can send and the power I have to open doors and knock down barriers for others. Mostly, I’m planning to just fully show up, everything else is optional.     


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