Fifty Nifty Takeaways
What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from others’ mistakes than yours.
ELGL on Indiana
The 50 Nifty project has landed in the Hoosier State. What do we know about Indiana? We know that is home to Pawnee, IN, the fictional setting for Parks and Recreation. We tried to land Ben Wyatt for the Indiana representative for the 50 Nifty but we only received a confused look. Luckily, we did one better. Charlotte Colley, New Albany (OH) senior projects manager, introduced ELGL to Nathan George, Fishers (IN) deputy town manager and past president of Indiana Municipal Managers Association. Before we learn more from Nathan, here’s a Cliff Notes version on all-things Indiana.
Indiana is the 38th largest by area and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Indiana is the least extensive state in the contiguous United States west of the Appalachian Mountains. Its capital and largest city is Indianapolis. Indiana was admitted to the United States as the 19th U.S. state on December 11, 1816.
Indiana is divided into 92 counties. As of 2010, the state includes 16 metropolitan and 25 micropolitan statistical areas, 117 incorporated cities, 450 towns, and several other smaller divisions and statistical areas. Marion County and Indianapolis have a consolidated city-county government. Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana and its largest city. Indiana’s four largest metropolitan areas are Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville, and South Bend.
Indiana has its share of “interesting” laws which is no different than other states that we have visited.
Beech Grove: It is forbidden to eat watermelon in the park.
Elkhart: It is illegal for barbers to threaten to cut off kid’s ears.
French Lick Springs: All black cats to wear bells on Friday the 13th.
Gary: Within four hours of eating garlic, a person may not enter a movie house, theater, or ride a public streetcar.
Warsaw: No one may throw an ottoman across the street at their neighbor.
Education: Brigham Young University – Idaho, A.A.; Brigham Young University, B.S., Sociology; and University of Nebraska at Omaha, M.P.A., Public Administration: Local Government Concentration
Experience: Past President of Indiana Municipal Managers Association (IMMA)
A suburb of Indianapolis, Fishers (population of 76,794) has grown rapidly in recent decades. Since 2000, Fishers has seen the largest population rise amongst the state’s 20 largest cities with an increase of 100 percent. After the passage of a referendum on Fishers’s status in 2012, Fishers will transition from a town to a city after the next municipal election.
Fishers was named the number one city for families by The Learning Channel and was selected as a Green Community by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. The town was named the safest city in the nation in 2011, and again in 2012. In 2010, Fishers was ranked eighth in the best places to live according to Money, America’s best affordable suburb by BusinessWeek, and the eleventh best place to move in the country by Forbes. Fishers was also ranked the 24th best place to live in America by Money magazine in 2005, 33rd in 2006, 10th in 2008, and 12th in 2012.
Famous residents of Fishers include:
Hollywood and Broadway actress Frances Farmer
Former Indiana Pacers players Reggie Miller
Former San Diego Padres player Tony Gwynn
Cleveland Indians pitcher Justin Masterson
Best piece of advice from your parents.
Always do and choose the right, which means being ethical and honest at all times.
In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party?
- Louis Armstrong
- Led Zeppelin
- Blake Shelton
- Kenny Chesney
- Karen Carpenter, just to name a few!
(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to……. There are lots of great things, see my children grow up to marry wonderful spouses, own a muscle car, travel and see a few more places, spend some time with family/friends, always advocate for fairness/ethics/professionalism; but most of all continually work to become the very best person that I can be.
Three most influential books in your life.
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- The Book of Mormon
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?
- John Wayne
- Abraham Lincoln
- Thomas Jefferson
- Dwayne Johnson
Describe the inside of your car.
The only existing items are those that I need for the day. The only items left overnight are a few small items of preparations such as a little change, ice scrapper, and hat/gloves during the winter months. Having a clean car, especially on the inside (which is much easier to keep clean than the outside) gives me a sense of happiness, accomplishment, completion, and peace.
What’s the meaning of life?
To serve others and to make choices (hopefully righteous ones) that will help determine where we go in in the eternities after this mortal probation. Our life now is only a few seconds compared to eternity (or forever).
Q & A
Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in your state.
Indiana residents are dedicated, committed, and care about their city/town
The majority of Cities/Towns are medium to very small municipalities. Many times the Town Manager does everything from running a backhoe to administering HR.
Professional Management is the minority (Council-Mayor is the majority) which makes for a fascinating blend.
We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?
When I was a Boy Scout (later obtained the rank of Eagle Scout), I decided I wanted to obtain a Master’s Degree. When I was in college working on my undergraduate degree one of my roommates was working on his MPA and now works for the State of Arizona. This area really interested me, so I started applying to graduate schools.
In the meantime, one day I dressed up in a white shirt and tie and starting visiting all the local governments in the South Salt Lake City Area and expressing my desire to obtain an internship. I am grateful that the City of Draper, Utah offered me that opportunity and I was able to go on to graduate school from there at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. While in school I worked as an intern at a nearby city as well as a graduate research student.
Give us your top three career accomplishments.
Providing a sense of kindness, appreciation, and clear direction among employees. Employees are the most valuable resource a local government has. It is important to be fair, kind, grateful, and always doing my best to set reasonable and clear expectations and foster a culture of innovation.
Work flows and process management.
Professionalism and honesty: Demonstrating ethics and always administering everything I am responsible for in local government in accordance with true professionalism, respect, patience, and “by the book” (whether it is the City/Town Code, Personnel Manual, Administrative Policies, etc.)
We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.
Hands down my # 1 mistake was having a bit of a negative attitude towards my boss, the organization, or different employees in the past (many years ago). Fortunately I was always professional and did not spread my opinions around, rather I would discuss with a confidant and/or internalize. This was the case many years ago; however I’ve since completely turned it around. I look at everything as a new opportunity to pursue. I am not only happy on the outside, but genuinely happy on the inside.
Trying to take on too much at once/volunteering for too much at once.
Early in my career my work/life balance was not good as it should have been. However, I have since corrected that and been fortunate to work for an organization that has strong family values.
Our experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor”. Has this been your experience?
Yes, so I always take the time to explain to them professional government, its roots, its purpose, the benefits of a city/town manager, and how I fit in.
How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?
# 1 way – lead by example. Show them what professional management is by every interaction, phone call, email, discussion, etc.
Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?
I would if I felt that person has the personality and desire to serve in this capacity. Over the years several “young professionals” have discussed this as a career choice and I’ve always been very supportive and positive about this. Now after 10 years in the profession, I realize that not everyone should be in it; but I am very vocal about it to all my family and friends and many of those have taken an interest and personally educated themselves or gotten involved in appropriate ways.
Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impression.
Research the job and tell me what interests you about it, why you want it, and why you are the best candidate.
Research the town/city (organization) and tell me why you want to be a part.
Be yourself. I need to see what your personality is in order to judge whether or not you will be a good fit. You may be a great person but not a good fit and neither you nor the organization would be happy.
Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.
Jerry Deichert, Director and Senior Research Associate of the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Orville Powell, retired City Manager, ICMA Senior Advisor, and Clinical Associate Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University
(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be ………… similar in structure to how it is now; however the demand for Information Technology, modernization and streamlining of processes, facing declining revenues and increasing maintenance on infrastructure, and doing more with less will be greater. Hopefully, more transparency to the public and higher ethics with those violating such and being held responsible will be at the forefront as well.
- Fishers, IN – Best Places to Live – Money Magazine
- Summer/Fall 2013 SPA Newsletter – publishing
- NEW SENSATION: CHARLOTTE COLLEY, CITY OF NEW ALBANY (OH), SENIOR PROJECTS MANAGER
- My Corner of the World with Charlotte Colley
- Scott Fadness wins GOP bid for Fishers mayor
50 Nifty Profiles
- OH: GARY HUFF, CITY OF PIQUA, CITY MANAGER
- VA: Kim Payne, City of Lynchburg, City Manager
- NC: Tom Lundy, Catawba County, County Manager
- RI: Rich Kerbel, Town of North Kingstown, Former Town Manager
- KS: Jason Gage, City of Salina, City Manager
- KS: Michael Wilkes, City of Olathe, City Manager
- VA: Chris Morrill, City of Roanoke, City Manager
- MS: Parker Wiseman, City of Starkville, Mayor
- OH: Jim Lenner, Village of Johnstown, Village Manager
- SD: Robert W. Wilson, Minnehaha County, Assistant Commission Administrative Officer
- IL: Greg Stopka, Alliance for Innovation
- WI: Kevin Lahner, City of Burlington, City Administrator
- MO: Andy Morris, City of Moberly, City Manager
- WI: Andy Pederson, Village of Bayside, Village Manager
- AL: Sam Gaston, City of Mountain Brook, City Manager
- CO: Robb Kolstad, Management and Budget Director, City of Thornton
- OK: Larry Stevens, City of Edmond, City Manager
- FL: Lee Feldman, City of Fort Lauderdale, City Manager
- GA: Peggy Merriss, City of Decatur, City Manager
- MO: Jennifer Gray, City of Des Peres, Assistant City Administrator
- NE: Larry Burks, City of Bellevue, Assistant City Administrator
- TX: Amy Buckert, City of Balcones Heights, City Administrator
- NC: Eric Peterson, Town of Hillsborough, Town Manager
- MD: Laura Allen, Town of Berlin, Town Administrator
- IL: Randy Recklaus, Village of Clarendon Hills, Village Manager
- NC: Mitchell Silver, City of Raleigh and American Planning Association
- IL: Patrick Rollens, Village of Oak Park, Social Media and Communications
- KY: Laura Milam Ross, Kentucky League of Cities
- AZ: Gabriel L. Engeland, Town of Gilbert, Assistant to the Town Manager
- SD: Sean Pederson, City of Canton, City Manager
- MI: Clay Pearson, City of Novi, City Manager
- WA/UT: Jon Amundson, City of Richland, WA and City of Orem, UT
- CA, FL, OR: Douglas Ayres, Former City Manager of Inglewood (CA), Melbourne (FL), and Salem (OR)
- California: Brian Angus, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Chief Executive Officer
- Washington/California: Julie Underwood, Shoreline City Manager
- NY: Jay Gsell, Genesee County, County Manager
- SC: Katherine Hendricks, City of Pickens Administrator
- CO: Tim Gagen, Breckenridge Town Manager
- UT: Rick Davis, West Jordan City Manager
- WA: Doug Schulze, Bainbridge Island City Manager and WCMA President
- IA: Geoff Fruin, City of Iowa City, Assistant to the City Manager
- CT: Roger Kemp, Former City Manager and Current President, Kemp Consulting
- AR: Jeff Dingman, Fort Smith Deputy City Administrator