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Podcast: Managing Rapid Growth with Julie Karins, Goodyear, AZ

Posted on September 3, 2021


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Julie Karins
City Manager
City of Goodyear, Arizona
LinkedIn | Twitter


Preparing for growth through thoughtful planning. Julie Karins, City Manager for the City of Goodyear, Arizona, joined the podcast to discuss managing rapid growth. She talked about the strategies for overseeing population expansion in a city that is close to 200 square miles. She also highlighted the background and importance of water rights as well as adapting to growth internally within the organization.

Host: Lauren Palmer

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Episode Transcript

 

Message 00:00

This Gov Love episode is sponsored by Huub. After a year of economic loss and uncertainty, small business owners need all the help they can get while rebuilding. Huub is the perfect solution to help recover your city’s small business economy. Their automated platform makes data tracking and resource allocation simpler than ever before. Making helping entrepreneurs even easier. Go to joinhuub.com. That’s joinhuub.com to learn more.

Lauren Palmer  00:43

Coming to you from Kansas City, Missouri, this is Gov love a podcast about local government. Gov Love is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Lauren Palmer, the director of local government services for the mid America Regional Council and your host for this episode. Before we start a reminder that it’s not too late to register for #ELGL21, the all virtual ELGL annual conference coming up on September 23 and 24th. With your registration you’ll receive a swag box and access to a wide range of sessions on current local government topics and fun networking opportunities. Tickets are just $80 with discounted rates for students, so  register today on the ELGL website. Today I’m visiting with Julie Karins, the City Manager of Goodyear, Arizona. Goodyear was one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the nation according to the newly released 2020 US Census data, we will be discussing how Goodyear prepared for and manages that growth both externally with municipal services, and internally with organizational culture. Julie, welcome to Gov Love. 

Julie Karins  01:48

Thank you. I’m pleased to be here today. 

Lauren Palmer  01:50

Great, we’re so glad to have you. So as is our tradition, we are going to begin with a lightning round of fun questions to just help you warm up. And my first question is, who is the most famous person you have met?

Julie Karins  02:04

So I’ve only met two famous people. But um, the one that I like to talk about is I got to meet Ken Blanchard, and I’m admittedly a huge fan. Of course, he’s known for the one minute manager but for me, his work on Situational Leadership is foundational for my career. So getting to see him and meet him and personally autograph a book for me was super cool.

Lauren Palmer  02:23

Oh, that’s very cool. Where did you meet him?

Julie Karins  02:25

He was speaking at Grand Canyon University, which is where I received my master’s degree and their business college was actually named after him. So I was there for an event. And he did a book signing. And like I said, it was he’s just, he’s as nice as you would think he would be, he comes across as a very genuine person.

Lauren Palmer  02:44

That’s very, very nice to hear. So you said you’ve only met two famous people who was the other famous person?

Julie Karins  02:50

The other one was Joe Rogan, I was at an event in downtown Phoenix, and there was one of those kind of fancy bowling alley bar setups. And he was in there with two body guards. And he is small, which is, because the body guards, Of course, were large. But he was very friendly. He was he was talking with people and and sharing some stories. And so I’d only seen him on TV before and like fear factor and stuff. And so that was a neat experience as well.

Lauren Palmer  03:20

It’s nice when famous people turn out to just be nice people like the rest of us.

Julie Karins  03:26

Exactly.

Lauren Palmer  03:28

Okay, so our next question, what is a food that you hate that most people enjoy?

Julie Karins  03:34

So there’s a lot of these, but apparently most people like carrots, and that just doesn’t matter how they’re how they’re prepared. What they what they come in, just a no go. No, go for carrots,

Lauren Palmer  03:47

Raw carrots, cook carrots, you don’t want it?

Julie Karins  03:49

It doesn’t matter. And it has something to do with the color, which is funny cuz I don’t mind oranges and they’re orange.

Lauren Palmer  03:55

That’s fascinating. I did not see that coming. And then you say texture, I get it. But really the color is problematic. If they were green, you think you’d be okay with it? 

Julie Karins  04:05

Possibly, but you know, yellow would be even better.

Lauren Palmer  04:09

Okay. Yeah, thanks for sharing. But you said there’s lots of foods that you hate that you think most people like.

Julie Karins  04:16

People tend to be surprised when I don’t like mushrooms and beans of any kind. And so living in the southwest where you have reified beans and there’s all sorts of you know, different kinds of beans. I don’t like any of them. And then avocado kind of throws throws people when I say I don’t like avocado now guacamole is okay, you got the other stuff mixed into it. But just avocado like avocado toast something like that. Just not a fan,

Lauren Palmer  04:46

The avocado gets a lot of attention in ELGL circles, that may ressonate with some of our listeners.

Julie Karins  04:51

I might be picky. 

Lauren Palmer  04:52

Yeah, and the beans living in the southwest. That makes sense that that. Yeah, I’m sure that’s more popular with most of the palates there, so interesting. Okay, now I’m feeling a little bit hungry. Thanks for talking food with me. Okay, and next, what did you want to be when you were a kid? I hope you say City Manager but-

Julie Karins  05:13

Not even on the radar screen, didn’t even know there was such a thing. Apparently, I’d like to argue as a child. And so I was always encouraged from my early days to be a lawyer. And so that did stick and I actually wanted to go to law school all the way through my bachelor’s degree, you know, I’d always envisioned that the next step would be would be law school, but then, you know, life happens. And I had gotten married and had my first child. And so my career path took a different direction. But, um, you know, I, I still think that that would have been a really, really cool career for me.

Lauren Palmer  05:47

It’s not too late. You never know. 

Julie Karins  05:50

I’m looking forward to retirement not I don’t wanna go back to law school. 

Lauren Palmer  05:53

Yeah, I hear you. Okay, well, that’s actually a good segue into starting our interview, because I like to start by just having you tell us about your career path and what led you into your current position. So if you finish your bachelor’s degree and decided you weren’t going to go to law school, what got you on this path into local government? 

Julie Karins  06:13

Yeah, I think it’s probably or maybe a unique story. So I ended up with a business degree from Arizona State University here in Arizona, and it had an emphasis in human resources. And so shortly after graduation, I started a human resources career in the hospitality industry. And you know, the hospitality industry is very fast paced and, and customer service. And I do believe it laid a good foundation for you know, what I ended up having as my calling. But when I was in human resources, I was working up in Telluride, Colorado, and I wanted to move, Telluride is beautiful, not a not a very, it’s super small, there’s like 800 year round residents. So I was looking for something you know, in a different area, and I applied for at the time it was a Help Wanted ad for Yavapai County Human Resources director and so Yavapai County is a county in northern Arizona. And it has four seasons, a really beautiful a part of the country. And they hired me despite having not a drop of local government experience. And so I really kind of accidentally fell into local government because of my human resources career. So I worked for Yavapai County for seven years as human resources director. And then the long term county administrator was going to retire. And he started talking to me about the position. And the first few times he asked me about it, I said no, like, why would I do that I’m a human resources professional. And the more time I spent with them and was started really closely watching, you know what he did and the type of work and projects that he was doing, you know, it ultimately did pique my interest, and they selected me, the elected County Board of Supervisors selected me to be County Administrator. So I performed in that role for five years. And I’m now currently in Goodyear, Arizona. And I now have 21 years in local government. And this is my third stop on that local government train. So I was with Yavapai County, the city of Peoria also an Arizona, and now the city of Goodyear here in Arizona.

Lauren Palmer  08:17

Well, I love that story. I love to hear a story of a good mentor who identified a new talent and potential that you weren’t really quite ready to see in yourself and then it’s been such a good fit. So I think that’s a good reminder for all of us to keep our eyes peeled for good talent.

Julie Karins  08:36

When I always say you know, organizations are made up of people and money. So if you have depth of experience with people or money, I think that you’ll make a good you know, executive leader, part of the reason they were interested in me for that role was in a county system. You have a ton of elected officials, I had I think 29 different elected officials I worked for or worked with in Yavapai County. And so what they saw was I had already established these, you know, trusting relationships with a variety of individuals across the organization, and they thought they could, you know, train me teach me in, you know, the other areas that I didn’t have. So I always do when I talk to students and they ask, you know, how do I how do I get there? You know, what do I do? I’ll always say you know, people and money if you follow you know, the people and money in an organization, you’ll have a really solid foundation.

Lauren Palmer  09:27

Okay, good advice. So introduce us to the city of Goodyear, tell us a little bit about the community you’re working in now.

Julie Karins  09:35

So Goodyear is a fast growing suburb of the Phoenix metropolitan area. We now officially have just over 95,000 residents, and we are in fact named after the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company who grew Egyptian cotton here for their tires. We’re in the process of transitioning from a bedroom community of that metro area, to being our own employment hub. And we now have major companies like Microsoft and Amazon, subzero, chewy.com. We have over 100 restaurants, a private university, and we’re the proud spring training home of the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds. And some of our recent honors, is we were named the 22nd best place to live by Money Magazine. And we were awarded the 2020, Arizona Chamber of Commerce best place for business.

Lauren Palmer  10:26

Very nice. So some accolades to be proud of there. Of course, we want to spend some time today just discussing your community’s rapid growth with the new census numbers that were released last month, Goodyear was confirmed as one of the top 10 fastest growing cities with a population of over 50,000, tell us how the city prepared for that growth.

Julie Karins  10:46

So yes, we grew by 46%, between 2010 with a population of about 65,000, to our 95,000 now in 2020. And COVID hasn’t slowed us down. In fact, just in the first six months of this year, we’ve issued more than 1300 single family permits. And so the the rate of growth is incredibly fast, which of course is you know, brings its own challenges. But, you know, thoughtful planning is the key. And we anticipated this growth, we didn’t necessarily know, you know, it wasn’t an If question, it was a when question. And in fact, it was the great recession that kind of slowed the trajectory of growth. And now we’re kind of catching back up. We’re only 11% built out as a community. And so we have to plan today for a future community of up to 750,000 residents. And, you know, of course, part of that planning is, you know, we do a general plan approved by our voters every 10 years. And that sets forth all of the land use in our large community. But we have a lot of other 10 year master plans, that we are constantly, you know, brushing off and projecting future needs, such as transportation, and parks and open space, and water are just some of those examples. And then, you know, drilling down a little bit closer in time, we have a strategic plan that’s adopted by council every three years, and then that informs the annual budget process. So we’re a community where the mayor and council over generations have known the growth was coming and thoughtfully and responsibly, you know, plan for the growth and one of their top priorities is to maintain the quality of life for our existing residents, as we welcome in new residents and businesses. So investments in infrastructure is a top priority for mayor and council just this year, we have, so just 2021, we’ve already cut the ribbon on two fire stations, and a beautiful new recreation campus. And we added 86 positions to the budget in order to keep up with the level of service to support the growth. We also have a surface water treatment plant under construction, a new city hall and library under construction. And we’re planning a future police headquarters expansion and another fire station. And you know, kind of the other consideration when we talk about growth is the census is just one indicator, and that tells us our population. But we’ve added over the last 10 years 8,300 jobs to the community since 2010, which is a 36% increase. So we’ve added our population by 46%. But we’ve also grown jobs in the community at a 36% increase. And that’s important because these new industries, these new businesses bring in dollars, for example, construction sales tax, that are one time dollars that we tend to turn around and then use to provide the infrastructure to support our existing residents without having to raise taxes, you know, the job opportunities bring, you know, perhaps improve the quality of life of our current residents, because they don’t have to now get on I-10 and fight traffic in the morning into the metro area, they can have a better quality of life by working closer to home. And of course, it brings additional patrons to support all of our so even if they don’t live in Goodyear, all the new jobs, those folks are using our gas stations and eating at our restaurants and so it becomes a great cycle. And so our community supports growth, we’re certainly not an anti-growth community.

Lauren Palmer  14:30

Thanks for sharing that, you’ve got a lot going on in a city and it’s really impressive the emphasis that you’ve placed on quality of life and infrastructure. I was surprised to learn that Goodyear has 191 square miles. I mean, that’s just enormous for a suburban community. My frame of reference is the city of Kansas City. That’s a really large geographic city at over 300 square miles. But the next two largest communities in our region are 128 and 78 square miles respectively. So, just for my view in the world, 191 just seems huge. So how are you, ensuring manageable growth and avoiding sprawl that could stretch your capacity to effectively deliver municipal services?

Julie Karins  15:14

Yeah, so what 191 square miles, those are our municipal boundaries. But we actually have 250 square miles in our planning area. So it’s even, it’s even larger than that. But you know, as I mentioned, we’re only 11% built out, and we’re growing, we’re a very long and narrow community, and we’re growing north to south. And so that allows us to control that sprawl because we have a growth pace for growth philosophy in Goodyear. So as a new developer wants to come in and say they want to put in, you know, a new residential community, they’re responsible for putting in all of their own infrastructure and roads, because again, growth pays for growth. And that’s not the responsibility of the current taxpayers. So for them to make the project make sense, they don’t want to leapfrog because that would substantially increase their costs. So it naturally encourages kind of a building block. And again, we’re going north to south. So most of our communities attach to the next for the South community. And so I expect that will grow. You know, we’ll continue that pattern through through our completion. But you know, it’s important to us to grow the right way. So we are careful in evaluating all of the development opportunities, discouraging, again, leap frogging. But, you know, to just again, focus on wanting to make sure that we maintain the quality of life, our residents, in our last citizen, or our community survey, we do it every other year, 94% of our residents rated Goodyear as a good or excellent place to live, which I think is incredible, when you consider, you know, in a growth cycle, you know, we’re really working hard to keep up and make sure that we don’t lose what’s already special about Goodyear.

Lauren Palmer  16:59

Sure, that makes sense. So as someone who has worked in her entire career in the Midwest, I am just fascinated by water rates in the Colorado River Basin and the impact on local land use planning. So I’m just gonna apologize in advance to any of our listeners who live in the West, western states and deal with this all the time and might find this conversation boring. But I’ve got a lot of questions about how you’re handling water, because it’s just not an issue that’s as prevalent in the communities that I’ve worked in, in the Midwest. So tell me how good your is preparing for its future water needs in light of anticipated growth.

Julie Karins  17:38

So water is fascinating. So anyone who thinks water is boring, you just got to dig in gotta dig in a little bit. And you know, water in Arizona, we you know, we are a desert. It’s a it’s a specialty area, and we have an entire team dedicated within our city to you know, managing the, the precious resource of water. And you know, it’s in I don’t think it’s any secret, I think has been reported nationwide that we’ve been in a drought cycle now for many years here in the west. So we often get the question, you know, what does this mean for Goodyear long term? Will we run out of water? Can we continue to grow? And the answer is that no, we’re not going to run out. And yes, we can continue to grow because the region is prepared. The region works together to track conditions. And this is statewide, and the whole western United States. But, you know, we work together to track conditions and to plan for a reliable water future by securing multiple water supplies, by storing water underground, and exploring and encouraging new ways to conserve water. And then, you know, we also invest heavily in the infrastructure to create that diverse and reliable water supply. So here in Arizona, it kind of all starts with a 1980 law. So this was, you know, many, many decades ago, 1980s, although I remember it, Groundwater Management Act. And it requires that developers in cities prove they have a 100 year assured water supply available to them physically, legally, and continuously for each development. So before someone can come in and build a community, in Goodyear, they have to prove that they have 100 year water supply for that development. And, you know, interestingly, or what I find fascinating is that Arizona has five times as many people living here now, but we use the same amount of water as we did in 1957. So when you look at water conservation, again, just to repeat that, you know, five times the number of people living here, we use the same amount of water that we did in 1957. And then something that’s also interesting is is most people think that you know, water is used by residents or businesses, but here in Arizona, 72% of our water is used for agriculture. Only 22% is used by the municipalities, and 6% is industrial. So that’s kind of like an overview of water. And then here in Goodyear, specifically, our diverse water portfolio, we get surface water from the Colorado River allocation. But we also have groundwater, we have wells that we bring water up through, and then we run them through a reverse osmosis treatment program. And then we have effluent, which is water that’s recharged into the ground. And here in Goodyear, we have, you know, a strong philosophy of water planning and efficiency. So we have a water conservation committee, made up of you know, citizens and business representatives. And we’re proud to say so here, Arizona is using the same amount of water, we did you know, 1957. But here in Goodyear specifically, because this is all tracked, our residents use around 82 gallons per capita per day, which is the lowest in the region, some of our neighboring communities, for example, have, you know, 200 gallons per, per day of usage. And so, we’re a community very much focused on making sure we have a diverse portfolio of water, but that we also, you know, use water conservation.

Message  21:19

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Lauren Palmer  21:49

So that’s great. I had never heard that factoid before about using the same water that you used in 1957, despite the growth, and kudos to you and your community for setting the bar for water conservation for your region. I was new information to me to learn about the difference between wet water and paper water? Could you explain that for our listeners.

Julie Karins  22:14

So you know, back in the 1980s, with the groundwater management act, it created something called AMA’s, or active management areas, where they looked at the groundwater within the state. And their concern was that all of the wells would would, you know, dry up the the aquifers. And so in the 1980s, they came up with a program where it’s required to balance the pumping from wells, and the replenishment of the groundwater. So every drop of water, which is your wet water, so that’s the actual you know, you can touch it, taste it wet water, pumped from the ground, must be replenished with a water credit, which is the paper waters, that’s the legal water. And it’s monitored by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. So for example, you can accumulate water credits, the paper water by recharging other water into the ground. And so the water credits actually become a commodity that can be bought and sold. And of course, the goal within the the AMA is to balance the amount of water pumped from the ground with the water that is recharged. So for example, here in Goodyear, we receive an allocation from the Colorado River. And we don’t take that water directly. Currently, we rely mostly on groundwater that we pump out of the wells and that we treat. So we take our Colorado water allocation, and we are part of a group that pumps that ground that water into the ground. So basically storing that water for future use, which gives us credits to use the groundwater we take from our wells. So it’s it’s a fascinating system. And that is it’s you know, like I said, waters fascinating and water in Arizona is it’s a true specialty.

Lauren Palmer  23:58

Yeah, I’ve heard you say this mantra of we have enough water, but not enough to waste. So what does that mean in terms of city management and delivery of municipal services?

Julie Karins  24:11

So we want to be careful to message to, you know, our residents that, you know, there’s a lot of headlines about water, but there’s there’s nothing to be panicked about. I mean, this is something that we know that drought cycles, you know, through through decades, and this is something that again, has been carefully monitored and planned, but it means it does mean we need to be responsible. So we want you know, we’re not telling our residents you can’t have a pool, but we are asking you to have you know, perhaps landscaping that uses low water. If you want to have grass in the backyard, that’s great, but maybe not put it in the front yard. So we are asking people to be thoughtful because it’s a precious resource. But we do have enough to support you know, where we are as a community and into the into the future. So we have a system as part of our planning process by, you know, we’ve taken the map of the city, we have our general plan, we know the types of land use that are going to come in the future to Goodyear. So we’ve assigned certain water rights to each piece of land within the future Goodyear, so that we know what’s anticipated and how to manage for for that future growth. But we also have to balance you know, economic opportunities that come into the city, you know, with the impact on water resources. So say we have someone who wants to come to Goodyear, and they are going to be a high water user. And by high water user, I mean, they’re going to use or require more water for their project than what we have allocated for that empty piece of vacant land. So in order for them to come to our community, they will have to bring their own water with them in order for us to locate them in our community. And it goes back to that wet water versus paper water. So we can have someone who locates to our community. And if they bring their own water, like paper water, we can make that work. So we recently had Microsoft locate in Goodyear, and they use water to cool their data centers. And so it was a big part of the conversation that they had to bring their own water. And Microsoft did. And they’ve had essentially zero impact on our overall water portfolio. So sometimes you see a headline, and it’s like Microsoft is coming to Goodyear, and they’re going to use, you know, a million gallons of water a day. And that can be alarming. But the reality is, is that we again, manage these resources extremely carefully. And we would not have made that locate if it was going to have a negative impact on our water portfolio.

Lauren Palmer  26:41

Yeah. Wow. I thank you so much for sharing all of that I could listen to you talk about this all day, I appreciate you taking some time to just geek out with me a little bit about water. I just, and kudos to all of our listeners who work in any way in water management in the western states. I just think this is such a great example of what local governments do and how important that local government role is to manage our precious natural resources. So appreciate that dialogue, but I will pivot now to a new topic. So you mentioned that Goodyear is developed as a bedroom community, and therefore it lacks a true downtown or central place to associate with community identity or civic pride. So share how you’re working to change that with a public private partnership for a new city hall.

Julie Karins  27:35

This is my favorite. So water is fun, but this is actually my favorite topic to talk about. So since 1984, the city of Goodyear has been dreaming of having a city hall and creating an area that could be the center, you know, of our of our community. And this project. So I came to Goodyear in 2018. And I would talk to Council and the community about you know what they would want and Trader Joe’s is top of the list. And unfortunately I’m still working on that one. But City Hall continued to come up as as a high priority. And so as I learned the background, city council bought a piece of land back in 1984 to build a city hall. And since then, the project has started and stopped five different times. And there’s been four different citizens committees that have studied this project as to where to put it and how to build it and how to make it special. But we’ve arrived, the building is proudly under construction. And it’s our it’s called our new Civic Square at GSQ and it’s truly a transformational project for our city. It’s a public private partnership, the Globe Corporation, and it’s the Getz family has owned a parcel of land in Goodyear since the 1970s. They bought the land directly from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and they’ve been holding and farming this land. And so it’s amazing what can happen over a cup of coffee, I was having a cup of coffee as I was new to the community and talking about the dreams and the wishes and we got to talking about how to put together a public private partnership to bring this special project to fruition so the Globe Corp is donating land for us of their 46 acres they’re donating land for us to build a four story, 125,000 square foot city hall that will have a 20,000 square foot two story library incorporated as part of the city hall project. And it will have a two acre park which creates the square out in front of City Hall. And we’re calling this the heart of Goodyear we’re going to be holding you know easter egg rolls, or food truck Fridays, art walks, you know holding all sorts of community events to bring the community you know together you know with friends and family, just the gathering place. Now, another special part of the project is the Globe Corporation is putting up a speculative Class A office building and speculative means They are using their money to build a beautiful three story, 100,000 square foot Class A office building without a designated user. And that doesn’t happen. So this is truly a special partner because in Goodyear, we’re transitioning from that bedroom community. We’ve added advanced manufacturing, warehouse and distribution. But we want to pivot now to Office headquarters, and locates who are coming to Arizona from California or other parts of the country, when they’ve made the decision to locate they want existing space. They’re not they don’t want to be patient and wait for something to be built. So in economic development world, we talked about how product, I’m sorry, projects follow product. And so for the Globe Corporation, to partner with us on the Civic square project, they’re putting faith in our market that when they build, and they are building this office building, that they will fill it and so that what it means for our community is we’ll say have, you know, a few 100 employees working at City Hall, we have 140,000 visitors annually to our library. And then if you have the office workers that are coming to the new office building, that creates a daytime density where now your restaurants, your retailers, and your entertainment venues, they want to be part of that. So we think that after we build this first phase, we’ll start to see your wine bars, you know, your coffee houses, and we really think it’s going to activate this area of our city to be something truly transformational. And we broke ground in April of this year. And we are scheduled for completion in June of 22. So true legacy project for our community.

Lauren Palmer  31:42

Congratulations, I can just hear your enthusiasm for the project and your voice and wish you and the community best luck as you get to have your grand opening next summer be here to see how that works out.

Julie Karins  31:56

We’ll certainly captured on social media for the world to celebrate with us. 

Lauren Palmer  31:59

That’s great, we’ll be watching. So you’re going to be opening a new city hall, we want to talk about what’s going on inside City Hall and how you’re managing your growth within the organization, you stated that you added 86 positions in your last budget. I’m sure many of our listeners were green with envy hearing that and the support that you’re adding. But you also have noted that that has some implications for your team and how you grow your team and that you’ve been very proactive about the employee onboarding process, to preserve your organizational culture and commitment to core values. So briefly review your culture statement and your core values and talk to us about the process that you used to gain consensus.

Julie Karins  32:43

Thank you, this, when I came to Goodyear, again in 2018. And I mentioned it was my third stop kind of on this this local government train. I loved my other organizations. But there truly is something special about Goodyear and I felt it as soon as I came to the organization, and, and in talking to, you know, in orienting myself to Goodyear, you know, the employees really talked about how this was a family. You know, we’re on the smaller side, you know, within the region about, you know, 700 employees, we’re about 800 now with the addition of these new employees, but there was concern expressed about, you know, as we grow larger, how do we keep ourselves from becoming more siloed? How do we keep what’s already special about, about Goodyear as a family as we grow? And so working with the team, and with the human resources department, we came up with an intentional culture journey. And this started back in 2019. And I was very careful when we were rolling out the program to say, our our core values are not aspirational. This is not who we want to be, this is who we are, we just want to make sure as we’re bringing in new employees to the organization that they don’t dilute the culture that we have. So if we can come up with a way of making this very intentional and having all of the core values and what the core values look like and feel like become part of our daily conversations that we would have a better chance of maintaining and protecting our culture. So we have six core values. They are empathy, optimism, integrity, innovation, adaptability, and initiative. And we spent three months on each core value doing a deep dive is to What does empathy look like? What does it feel like? What what type of type of behaviors do we want to see within the organization when we talk about empathy? And as we’re going through this process, one COVID hit and we had to really make a decision as to Wow, the world’s changing do we keep going? Or do we take a pause? And I’m really proud that the team decided to push through, because I can tell you that our core values of adaptability and optimism really helped us you know, survive, survive through COVID. But as we’re going through the exercise, it’s like those six core values are great, but we need something more Easy to remember, something simpler. And so we decided to come up with a culture statement. And so I like to tell this story because it really speaks to my leadership team. So we got together, and we’re trying to come up with a very simple culture statement. And I think most of us have experience, it’s much easier to write a five page document than a one paragraph, you know, it’s the tighter you have to make that statement, the harder it became. And so we had a lot of fun, but words matter. And we spent a lot of time and had so much debate about which you which words to use in our culture statement, that it became part of the experience. And I like to share that I have a coffee mug that my communications director made for me, that captures all of the words we considered as part of our culture statement that we later discarded, because it became so much part of this, you know, this exercise. So anyway, we ended up with a culture statement that is: We care, we achieve, and we celebrate. And it really resonates within our organization, because we care. That was the easy one, right? We care about our residents, we care about the current state of Goodyear, we care about the future city of Goodyear, and we care about each other. You know, we care about you know, our coworkers. So we care was an easy one. We achieve, you know, we’re a highly performing organization, we get stuff done, and we finish projects, and we win awards. And so, you know, as a highly performing organization, we achieve, that one was pretty easy too, but the third statement we celebrate, had such great debate, because we were concerned, you know, as a, as a community that is paid for and supported by taxpayer dollars, as good stewards of taxpayer dollars, what would it look like and feel like to tell the community that one of our core values, as part of our culture statement is that we celebrate, and, you know, I personally fought hard to keep it because, you know, you can celebrate large and small. It, they don’t have to all be large, you know, holiday parties are big employee events, you celebrate as a family with little things, with promotions, with retirements with the birth of grandchildren, or you know, the the marriage of a child. So to acknowledge that celebrating is part of what makes Goodyear special at the end of the day was was very important. And it really does encapsulate who we are as a culture. So it’s been an extremely successful, intentional culture journey. And I think Only time will tell, you know, how successful we are in keeping our culture, but it’s very much intentional, on our part.

Lauren Palmer  37:43

Great, so tell us more about how you’re embedding that culture statement in your core values just within your organization, specifically in your hiring and your onboarding process.

Julie Karins  37:55

So you know, studies will tell you that, you know, what means and what matters to employees most is information from their direct supervisor, you know, they like to hear perhaps from executive leadership, but what means the most is it coming from, you know, directly, those who are closest to them and their chain of command. And so we were very deliberate in saying that we wanted all of these messages, these three months of a deep dive to come from the department itself. So it wasn’t human resources, it wasn’t, you know, myself or city manager’s office. So we put together leadership packages, that each department would be able to roll out within their, you know, within their areas to make it a much more personalized conversation. And so that was very successful, but then you have the issue of, okay, we’ve done 18 months, we’ve gone through all of our culture, you know, our core value deep dives, but we’re bringing in all these new employees every month to the organization, you know, how do we make sure that they kind of catch up? And they know, that’s the whole point, right, that they come into the culture. So we do a four day orientation here in Goodyear, four full days, where they’re taken away from their departments, and the organization is very supportive, they see the value. But the very first day, I personally spend an hour with the group talking about this core value journey and the reason why we embarked on it and start talking about the core values. But then over the next four days, they spend time with the Human Resources leadership team, very specifically diving into the core values to kind of catch them up to where we are. And then of course, we’re now in our phase two of our core value journey, to keep everything fresh and fun and alive. We recently just put chalk paint on some of the walls throughout our different buildings, talking about core values and showing sharing stories and so we’re always looking for ways to keep it front and center. It’s not a one and done. We want to keep it very much alive in the organization.

Lauren Palmer  39:57

Gosh, good for you. I mean, chalk paint is pretty edgey for city hall. So I’m impressed. And I’m impressed that you’re personally committing that much of your time to be involved in the onboarding process. I think that says a lot about your leadership and the culture in your organization. So thanks for sharing about how you’re acclimating to this new and growing staff at the same time that your community is growing.

Julie Karins  40:24

It’s been fabulous to see the buy in. And, you know, when we do employee satisfaction surveys, you know, to continue to see, you know, people 92% of our employees say Goodyear is a good or great place to work. You know, it’s something that we take a lot of pride in. And it is truly something that we want to do today and continue to put focus on that that experience for our staff. 

Lauren Palmer  40:48

Very cool. Well, I have one more question. Before we wrap up, I think our listeners would be interested to hear that you were part of that special group of city managers who has a loved one in the profession. Your daughter, Kristen Dorman is the Assistant city administrator in Pleasant Hill, Missouri. And that says a lot about your enthusiasm for the profession that she wanted to follow in your footsteps. Is there any motherly advice that you have shared with Kristen about being successful in local government that you would be willing to impart to our audience?

Julie Karins  41:21

You know, I’m, I’m, of course, super, super proud of my daughter, and all that she’s accomplished in her career and, you know, local government is an incredibly rewarding career path. I mean, what we do impacts the lives of our residents in a very real way, every day, but it’s not always easy. And I can’t express how nice it is to be able to have Kristen, where we can call each other, you know, even across all the states, and we can talk about things that would make our family and friends eyes glaze over, you know, we can really get into some great conversations and support each other. So I’m so grateful to have had that relationship, but my advice to her would be, it’s not just this career field, it would be any career field, but you have to know who you are, and protect who you are along the way. And what I mean by that is you have to, you know, be paying attention to your own values, ethics, and moral compass, to guide you, you know, throughout your life, because a lot will come at you and, and you have to know when to when to give and when to be flexible and, and when to really stand your ground to protect you know, the core of who you are. But it’s also important to establish boundaries with work life, you know, I say early and often, because the job will take everything from you, if you’re willing to willing to give it and so you know, you have to protect your your mental health, you know, burning out isn’t going to help anyone and you have to protect your physical health, you know, so that you can have a nice long career. And then lastly, my advice to her would be you know, it’s a serious job. But don’t take yourself seriously. You know, if you’re not enjoying the journey, if you’re not having fun, if you’re not being yourself, it’s not going to be worth it in the end.

Lauren Palmer  43:05

Great advice, we will take that to heart. So thank you so much, Julie for joining the Gov Love podcast. As we wrap up, we always like to ask, if you could be the Gov Love DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?

Julie Karins  43:19

I love that question. So Goodyear is celebrating our 75th birthday this year. So I think it would be incredibly appropriate for celebrate by Cool and the Gang to be the perfect exit music.

Lauren Palmer  43:32

Great one, uplifting, happy birthday Goodyear. And thanks again, Julie. That ends our episode. We’re so grateful to have Julie Karins, the City Manager of Goodyear, Arizona join us today to talk about growth both internal and external to the organization. Don’t forget the all virtual ELGL annual conference is coming up on September 23rd and 24th, visit ELGL.org/Events to learn more and get registered. Gov Love is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network, you can reach us at ELGL.org/GovLove or on Twitter @GovLovePodcast. Thanks for listening. This has been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.

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