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Podcast: Parks & Recreation During COVID-19 with Alison Rhodes, Boulder, CO

Posted on May 22, 2020


Alison Rhodes

Alison Rhodes
Director of Parks and Recreation
City of Boulder, Colorado
LinkedIn | Twitter | Bio


Thinking creatively about being mission critical. Alison Rhodes, the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Boulder, Colorado, joined the podcast to talk about operating during COVID-19.  She shared how the pandemic has affected the work of her department and what they are doing to creatively offer services. Alison also talked about her career path and how she sees the parks profession changing after the pandemic.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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Learn More

Boulder Parks and Recreation Website

On Demand Fitness from Boulder

City closes stretch along Boulder Creek after photos show large groups congregating there

Boulder Names Assistant City Managers and New Parks and Recreation Director

New Member Profile: Alison Rhodes

Appointments to Boulder city offices are announced


Episode Transcript

Kirsten Wyatt

Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government. GovLove is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Kirsten Wyatt the ELGL, co-founder and executive director and today I’m excited to welcome Alison Rhodes, the Parks and Recreation Director in Boulder, Colorado to GovLove. Welcome to GovLove.

Alison Rhodes

Thank you. It’s fun to be on.

Kirsten Wyatt

Today, Ali and I will talk about managing Parks and Recreation operations during COVID-19 response and recovery. As we know from many ELGL members nationwide, this pandemic has had a huge impact on fee based services. And so today we’ll talk to Ali about her career path and leadership in parks and recreation. And also about some of those specific impacts on Parks and Recreation operations that GovLove listeners should be aware of right now. But first let’s get started with a lightning round. So what is a food that everybody likes, but you do not?

Alison Rhodes

I don’t get the hype around steak. Like you know people get all excited about really good steak. I’ve had really good, I’ve heard expensive that I assume is good steak. It doesn’t really do anything for me. I really don’t. Yeah, I don’t get it.

Kirsten Wyatt

Interesting. And so do you feel that way about all red meat? Or is it just like the act of like eating a steak?

Alison Rhodes

No, that’s real. I really am not into red meat except my husband makes an incredible hamburger. And so I’m I like Trevor Rhodes’s hamburgers. And other than that, yeah, I rarely am interested in red meat.

Kirsten Wyatt

What makes those hamburgers so exceptional?

Alison Rhodes

It’s funny cuz they’re kind of more like meatloaf. He puts onions and lots of different spices in them. And then lately, we realized it’s really about the condiments, like a really good crispy piece of lettuce and tomato and yeah.

Kirsten Wyatt

Nice. All right. So what is your favorite font?

Alison Rhodes

This question made me giggle and I had to think about it. It’s Century. We used Century, our consultants with our last master plan and I realized now whenever I see it that I just smile and think of that really great process and guidance that I should start using it more in my day to day work because it’s just a good font.

Kirsten Wyatt

It is. It’s a very clean like professional looking font.

Alison Rhodes

Yeah.

Kirsten Wyatt

All right, what is your best self care tip in the time of quarantine or shelter in place?

Alison Rhodes

Uh, to do the things that I tell people to do. So you know, make space for yourself whatever it is that looks like. For me it is, well, let me just say during the first three to four weeks of all this, I think we were all in shock. I know I was and I was staying up way too late and making really bad decisions around the things that went in my body. And it wasn’t helping. As this got longer, I realized that if I was going to be the leader our team deserved, I needed to take better care of myself. And so I have gone back to my routine of getting up early in the morning before my family so that I can exercise or I do some yoga or sometimes I just sit by on the couch with the lamp and do some reading or mindless space but I’m by myself which is really important. I’m an introvert and being in the house all day with the kids or even just being in this office and working so much I need that space to charge. So that’s been it for me.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, you raise such a good point and I feel like it’s something that I’m seeing and hearing from people and it’s this experience has helped them like confirm or reaffirm, you know if they are more introverted or extroverted and how much alone time they need, because alone time is definitely hard to come by.

Alison Rhodes

Very. And it’s even harder, right? Because I see what my husband and kids are dealing with. And it’s even harder I think to be like, alright, y’all just went through your day of schooling and you know, want some stuff from me, but I got nothing and I need to go on a walk by myself.

Kirsten Wyatt

Right, right. Absolutely. All right, so last question, what is your most controversial nonpolitical opinion?

Alison Rhodes

I feel like the worst one I struggle to even say aloud. So I feel like that’s the one I should talk about. I, gosh, and I hear you have Michael Jordan, I’ve seen you post about your dogs, but I just really, you know, I really believe dogs are not people. I know a lot of people disagree with that and think that that dogs are humans who you know, belong at our restaurants. And yeah, I’m not I’m not there. You know, but I

Kirsten Wyatt

You know, but I yeah, I can agree with that. I mean, you know, Mike is a special angel sent from heaven, [laughter] but he does not deserve to be in public spaces because he you know, is horribly behaved so I get where you are coming from.

Alison Rhodes

I love dogs. I love, love, love dogs. And I really I mean, especially, you know, there’s a lot of dogs that are really special in my life and have been. But man, there are dogs all over everywhere in Boulder and they are not all well behaved.

Kirsten Wyatt

[Laughter] All right, so let’s talk about your work in Boulder, if you can share with us please your career path and how you got to where you are right now.

Alison Rhodes

Sure. So I have the same mixed bag I’m sure most folks do, where I did various retail things through high school and college. But my last two years of college I was a Teller at a local bank as a part time job. And they asked me to stay on after I graduated and I was in management, retail banking, and I had two incredible female mentors who put me on a great path towards leadership. But after about a year or two, I realized that I could care less, I could not care less about how much money the bank made. And so I started looking around and I had started dating this guy who happens to be my husband and his dad was a public works director and I did not know local government was a thing. I was one of those people who, you know, really just didn’t have much engagement until I learned it was a thing. And I started watching the City of Boulder’s website. And I, my first job with the City of Boulder was nearly 18 years ago when I was an Admin Specialist in the sports office. And so I supported a bunch of coordinators who were doing adult softball leagues and youth camps. And then there was some transition and I myself was a coordinator for a while. And then it’s funny. 15 years ago, we had a reorg and I was a center supervisor. And it’s only funny because I talked to my boss who did that reorg this morning, I wanted some input and mentorship from her. And then I was the project manager for our master plan in 2012. And it was one of those watershed moments where I shifted from recreation into project management, policy research, and I had this aha moment about what I love about Parks and Recreation. So that was very cool.

Kirsten Wyatt

When you landed in that very first job as the admin specialist, was that kind of, was that just the first job that came up from Boulder that was interesting to you? Or, or were you on a path, even when you’re first getting started into Parks and Recreation?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, no, I was just watching the City of Boulders website. You know, it could have been that another job came up. This one was the first one that was interesting to me. It was you know, it was that it was in, in the sports office and I was an athlete. So I was like, well, I like sports. I could do this. This is a good way in and figure out what this could look like. And so I honestly, still other than my, you know, career in Little League and other engagements as a participant with parks recreation, I had no clue what it was as a profession. So I don’t think I had any clue that 18 years later it would be my passion and something that filled my soul the way it does.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so reflecting back on those 18 years, and you know, the work you did when you were getting started, you know, obviously, you know, managing facilities, working on this master plan project, how much of that is still coming into play now that you’re in this senior leadership role?

Alison Rhodes

A lot. I, I tell folks, a lot of time being in facility management is great experience for any career because you’re constantly trying to balance a bunch of special interests. So in our organization, and I think in many, so the folks who run the yoga programs are passionate about yoga and they’re really good at yoga. And the people who run the aquatics programs are the same and you as the center supervisor have to kind of balance those different competing interests. One of my mentors is Kathy Hodgson and the City Manager in Lakewood and she talks about how Parks and Recreation people make such good city managers because we’re such good people, people, right. Like, we’re constantly solving people problems. And so I think it absolutely has helped get me where I am today.

Kirsten Wyatt

So paint us a picture for, of what it’s like to be managing Parks and Recreation operations right now. What’s going on?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, it’s a mix of putting out the fire right in front of you. And then trying to imagine the fire that’s going to happen three months from now. And then planning for a future where there might not be any fires at all. What could the new normal look like? And so for me right now, putting out the fires is this phase recovery. So in Colorado, we have entered safer at home. That means the restrictions have lightened a little bit but we still really think folks are safer at home. There’s some really great guidance out there that I’m grateful the National Recreation and Park Association has been putting out and so we’re trying to just stay on top of all of the information that’s coming out from the CDC and the Aspen Institute. So staying on top of that, coordinating across the county and state with other directors and our local public health agency is a daily activity. And then the budget so for 2020, we are making significant adjustments to our budgets. So those are the current fires. For the future, I think we know that it’s highly unlikely the world for Parks and Recreation will ever look like it did in February. In recreation, you know, class sizes are going to be limited. We have financial limitations, consumer behavior is going to change, right? How comfortable people are going to be sweating around other people is probably going to change. In Boulder 35% of our participants are 60 plus in that vulnerable category. So what’s it going to look like for them to be healthy? So we’re really trying to imagine what recreation should look like in the future.

Kirsten Wyatt

And what is what’s keeping you up at night? What’s causing you the most stress right now?

Alison Rhodes

Everything about people, I think. So in our department and in the City of Boulder we did furlough employees to help address our immediate financial needs. And I have a colleague who will say I bleed Parks and Recreation. It’s true. I love our work. And I love our team. And we have made very sound financial decisions that are heartbreaking. It is it is the right thing to do. But it’s hard. And I, I certainly think about it a lot. And then the other thing around people is equity is so important in our work. And I’m wanting to make sure that we are making decisions with equity in mind. I think we’re all reading the stories about how this pandemic is a tale of two cities. And I know that’s true in Boulder. The Latin x community here is 14% of our population, yet it’s 44% of the COVID cases. We know that children you know, the children who suffer most from the opportunity gap are suffering from the lack of brick and mortar schools and the participation of recreation programs. So how are we addressing those and how are we staying connected to those critical community members.

Kirsten Wyatt

And anything that’s giving you hope, or is kind of a bright spot on the horizon?

Alison Rhodes

Sure. We have some incredible recreation staff that are maintaining connections to youth and low income housing and even our participants with disabilities. One of our coordinators just told me she did an indoor scavenger hunt with her participants virtually. So when I hear those stories, I get really happy. Our special events team is trying to, you know, what can they do to build community from a distance? And then we think, come June, we might be able to offer some more services. We just finished talking about outdoor pools, which are a very big deal in our community, and we’re hopeful that we might be able to do some lap swimming in the summer.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay. And so thinking just about parks and facilities, what are some of the key concerns or issues that you want listeners to know about managing those places and spaces and facilities?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, I mean, well, the good news is, is that parks and green space are more important than ever, right? I mean, across the country, you’re seeing the stories about how people are being driven outdoors, because we’re all sick of our houses, and maybe the people in them. And so that’s creating these incredible challenges in our open space system. We’re seeing peak summer visitation, and even in some places more. And so, yeah. And we’re still, as I mentioned in the safer at home category, which means you really should only be socializing with those in your household. We’re trying to limit gatherings if you are doing something less than 10 people and still from a distance. And that’s really an issue in a lot of our public spaces, certainly in our trail system. And so how do you safely, we want people to get outside taking care of mental and physical health is probably more important than ever. But we need to help support them in doing it safely. So that’s probably number one.

Kirsten Wyatt

And how are you prioritizing, you know, maintenance and upkeep? Is this a time when you are doing more of that, or have you had to scale back on that front as well?

Alison Rhodes

Sure, it’s both. I’m really grateful for the work our park operations team has done to list out the services they provide and look at service levels. I’m trying to be very intentional about with less resources, it doesn’t mean we just work harder, it means that we have to reduce our service levels. It’s not fair to our staff to keep our expectations the same if we are reducing their resources. And so you know, some of it’s really easy like our athletic fields, we typically mow three times a week and right now we’re only mowing them once a week. And so that gives some capacity to support in other areas, but we are some of the aesthetic things like edging and string trimming. We’re doing less because we’re focusing on trash removal and mowing. And we do have a reduced workforce and so that prioritization is super important if we want our employees to feel supported and that the workload is manageable.

Kirsten Wyatt

And then the same question but for recreation and events, and you mentioned some of this, but I mean, normally you would be gearing up for, you know, all of these wonderful summer events and programs and camps and classes. What are you doing now to get ready for the summer months?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah. It goes back to what we just talked about. With parks a little bit is what is the core function of local government? Right? What do we need to provide for our community. For us, something that’s rising to the top is childcare. So in a normal summer, we have an incredible breadth of summer camps, and we have goats and gardens, which is really popular, but that camp is nine, I think it’s just nine to noon. And that’s not really supporting childcare needs like a licensed childcare that operates from eight to five for some of the workers that we know are going to need it. And so we’re focusing our resources on those more child care like camp, the child care like needs because we know that’s where our community’s really gonna need our support. And then also, we really just have to re-imagine ourselves. You know, I’m, I’m not interested in recreation just laying over and dying. We know, we have limitations in volume and in programming and operating facilities, but the community still needs us and we still have a role around physical and mental health. And so, you know, our team was really trying to think about the folks who need us, we still need to try and help the community and getting kids active. It’s super easy for them to sit on screens all day right now, I know there are days where mine do, you know, building community, where we can when everyone’s in their home, and then just maintaining connections with our community members. Those are all still really important things. We just have to do them differently right now.

Kirsten Wyatt

And from a logistical standpoint, you know, like we’ve even tried it, we’ve rescheduled this podcast interview a couple of weeks, because we want to make sure we record it and release it in, you know, a good time frame, because things are changing so fast. And whether it’s the best practices or guidance from your state or new developments in your local government. How are you keeping track and you know, making those really rapid pivots to the next way of doing things or the next way of looking at things? You know, what’s kind of helping you get through all of these changes and all of this information?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, well, I mean, I think we’re all struggling, right. It’s really, really hard. There’s so much ambiguity, but I do think one thing that helps is we’ve kind of learned is and it goes back to even just best practices in process improvement, like you just document something right. And then you can iterate and sometimes we get so hung up like with all the unknowns that we don’t even know where to start. So sometimes just start and write a bunch of stuff down. And if you have to adjust it fine, but that’s much easier than continually waiting. And so that’s what we’ve done in a lot of areas. And now we have, you know, just in the last two weeks we have templates because we have reopened to some amenities. And so we have, you know, an outline for if we are going to bring something back online, what do we need to think about when it comes to PPE and employee safety and participant rules and so that makes it easier, and in the last few weeks the resources available that professionals are providing to each other, and I know ELGL has a resource center, the National Recreation and Park Association has put together a great mix of resources to folks if you don’t have a plan at all, they have templates. If you know, the Little League is scrambling and saying they really want you to operate, you can look to the Aspen Institute’s ready to play guide where they’ve synthesized really good guidance from the different governing bodies of sport like you don’t need to do that work. It’s available. So I think in the last two weeks, it’s gotten much easier.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so this is a time that people are seeing a silver lining or a benefit, which is promoting innovation and making 10 years worth of changes in two months. And, you know, trying to ensure that we don’t go back to, you know, the way we’ve always done it. What do you think is on the horizon in parks and recreation management, that is going to be kind of that innovation that’s going to stick because of everything that’s happening right now?

Alison Rhodes

Well, I don’t, I don’t know if it’s fair to say it’s on the horizon. It’s happened. You can see the presence online of so many virtual recreation centers and people are having really great success connecting with participants virtually. And I do think that something’s going to stick for two reasons. One, is that there are days where people just don’t want to leave their house and knowing that something’s available, they can see their favorite instructor online, you know, when they can, but then also for a while, or at least until there’s a vaccine, we’re going to have vulnerable parts of our population who, for a long time might not be advised to return to our facilities. And so those virtual programs are going to help keep them healthy, and they better stay because they’re going to be needed for a while.

Kirsten Wyatt

And looking on the finance side of things, has this opened any doors or opportunities or new ways of funding, especially on the recreational side? The services that are provided, is that going to open up more of a willingness to pay for online or digital classes, services, or anything like that, that might change the landscape of how we fund Parks and Rec?

Alison Rhodes

That’s super interesting. I don’t know when this is going to be published. But in the next 24 hours, we’re going to be issuing our proposal for outdoor pool operations that really focus on, if you want to lap swim great, but you’re gonna have to pay for that service. If you have an ability to pay, we’re still gonna honor. We have a 100% free, it’s called Requity, recreation equity, it’s funded by our health equity fund, we’ll be able to honor those passes. But we’re not going to be able to honor any of our other discounts like our punch cards or annual passes, because those are based on volume that we’re just we’re not going to have when we’re limited to one person per lane. And so we are proposing that people pay for the service fully. But on the flip side of that we need to be more intentional than ever about how we use the limited tax subsidy we have to focus on our community members with disabilities and those with low income. And so one of the silver linings I would say is the access campaign that our philanthropic partner, The Play Foundation is coordinating. They have been right alongside us through this pandemic and are looking at how they can focus their fundraising to address the financial challenges many of our community members will be facing.

Kirsten Wyatt

And when you look at managing, you know, the City of Boulder, parks and recreation program, and, you know, we’re starting to see some real differences depending on how states are approaching reopening or even, you know, in some cases, different communities that have some different local guidelines or expectations, you know, whether that’s, you know, at the county level, and any particular challenge that you’re working through, knowing that like, the disease doesn’t stop, like when it hits the city boundaries or the city limits, and how do you how do you work with, you know, your counterparts in other jurisdictions, you know, to keep people safe?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah. Yeah, that’s really interesting. I would say that is a challenge. There’s a couple of things that I would say one of the other lasting effects of the pandemic is going to be the collaboration that’s happening among Parks and Recreation directors in Colorado. So there’s we invited through our state membership Association. There’s a call every Friday with directors from across the state. The resource and problem solving there is really valuable. And just this week we started meeting the directors here in Boulder County. And that is really helpful because you know, if we all have a skate park and ours are open and someone else’s are closed, either they look like jerks or we look irresponsible, right? So either way, it just isn’t good. So we’re trying to coordinate where we have that can. The challenge is that there still are going to be differences based on risk tolerance, right. And I think golf is a great example. There are some places and in the private sector where golf never closed. And we in the City of Boulder did and in the county, it was all closed for a while from, you know, in the middle of March when we were all shutting down, but little by little golf courses started to open because it was seen as something that that you could safely do and we really struggled with how do you say under our stay at home order, exercise was only allowed as an essential activity and with some limitations, like how do you say golf is essential. And so we really struggled with that and just reached the point where it wasn’t the fight we thought we needed to fight as long as people could be safe. But the the other big difference is going to be in funding level. So recreation is funded so differently, right, if you’re a special district that you have some property tax funding, and if you’re in a community, you know, here in Colorado, there’s some communities that have incredible resources based on some taxes from natural resources, and they’re highly subsidized. We’re not here in Boulder. Our recreation fees are high or recreation services are highly funded by user fees. And so that really limits the ability to provide services consistently when your funding levels are so different. And so I definitely don’t have the answer, right. I know that the more we all talk, the more coordinated we can be. But at the end of the day, it probably just comes down to knowing your community and your values, so that you can make the decisions that align best with your community knowing there’s still going to be some differences. And it’s hard.

Kirsten Wyatt

And picking up on that, you know, thread of essential services, you know, obviously, this podcast is called GovLove, because we love government, and we believe deeply in, you know, all of the functions of local government. But, you know, we know that there are people out there that that wonder why, you know, parks and recreation and library, and you know, cultural centers are, are part of a government landscape. Any, you know, rising sentiment like that, that you’re having to deal with as people you know, maybe are scared or worried or they, they look at the, you know, financial forecast. Is this a time where you’re kind of on the defensive and having to, you know, explain and share why Parks and Recreation is an essential service?

Alison Rhodes

I’m certain that conversation is happening in some communities. One of the benefits and blessings of being a director and working for the City of Boulder is, this community loves its recreation, right? So you can go to our website and see the list of accolades around healthiest city and you know, best place to ride a bike and our communities from the time the city was founded by white settlers, at least in the late 20th century, and even the Native Americans were here before that love movement, love natural lands. And so we don’t see that kind of resistance, and I’m very grateful for it.

Kirsten Wyatt

Mm hmm. And what is a bell that can’t be unrung from our local government COVID response? And we’ve been asking this question a lot because it seems like we’ve undone a lot of things in those last two months, and some of it might not go back to the way it used to be.

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, it’s got to be something around the need to be more flexible and respond to this government right. Like we see it happen in burst during a natural disaster like if there’s a flood or a fire people just get really nimble and flexible and figure out the solution to solve the immediate life safety issue. But this longer term crisis is getting that that that response to be baked a little more, it’s settling in. And there’s some bureaucracy I think that we’re dealing with and I, I’ve always been bothered when people say bureaucracy like a bad word, because, you know, one of my grad school professors like to talk about, like that word, it comes from the front, or the Latin Bureau, like in separation and drawers. And it’s, it’s to prevent the abuse of power, and it’s a good thing. But man, can we get in the way, right? And when there are immediate problems to be solved around safety, right now, there’s a big conversation happening in Boulder about how do we give businesses more outdoor space and there’s a real interest to do it without a lot of red tape because the need is urgent. We want our businesses to thrive. And so I think, I think and especially with this virtual environment where we you know, our IT department is amazing. We went fully remote in like a day. And it was ridiculous. And I think that how, how can that unchange right? There are many people in roles that are seeing it’s pretty sweet to work from home and maybe it’s saving the city money. So, yeah.

Kirsten Wyatt

And zooming out, you know, I think Boulder, you know, not only in just your public facing digital services, but you know, even as you just described with, you know, being able to stand up remote work operations so quickly. You know, maybe you haven’t dealt with this as much recently. But is this, is COVID changing how Parks and Recreation departments are using digital services or online services to do their work. I mean was this like the kick in the pants that some departments or functions needed to like, get into the 21st century?

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, I mean, and even us, I can tell you, you know, we have tried so hard to make our financial aid process easier, but it still wasn’t available online and our teams working really hard to figure that out right now because we’re not going to require someone to come into an office to, you know, prove their need. Like, that’s just that doesn’t make sense in the 21st century. You know, we talked about virtual recreation centers and that happening. What I’m seeing happening is, because of the limitations on space, people are creating reservation systems and creating, you know, the online tools to facilitate access. That’s, that’s going to be an incredible boon for a lot of departments. And I think for most of us, it’s probably a new thing. But it’s going to stick, it’s going to be great.

Kirsten Wyatt

And, you know, some of our, you know, notes and conversations leading up to this podcast, we focused on this dire financial situation that is facing our local governments. Any predictions or you know, crystal ball visioning that you have about what our listeners can expect out of their Parks and Recreation Department, you know, given these dire forecasts that are out there, you know, in this next calendar year?

Alison Rhodes

Well, that’s a million dollar question.

Kirsten Wyatt

I know. [Laughter]

Alison Rhodes

Why don’t I say it like this? Here’s what I hope you see out of your Parks and Recreation departments. I hope you see staff thinking super creatively about how to be mission critical, right? So if our mission is to promote health and well being, which it is here in Boulder, then what’s the best way to do that? What’s the best way to take our tax subsidies if you have them and use them for community benefit? And what’s the best way to create some services that people would be willing to pay for so that we can lift up their you know, their bodies, hearts and minds, because that’s our job. So, you know, I know that’s, that’s somewhat, you know, nonspecific but what I think you will see and what i know Parks and Recreation professionals are so creative. So I think you can see some really cool ideas about how to get people moving about how to take care of our communities, you know, hearts and souls in an incredible trying time. So I think you’re gonna see some real creativity.

Kirsten Wyatt

And I, I’d like you to also speak to, you know, something that you very eloquently described earlier on in this episode. And that’s that emotional challenge or that emotional labor right now of managing in a time when things like furloughs are happening and, you know, some of those mission driven things that that, you know, make you come into work every day aren’t happening, you know, the closure of parks and programs and things like that. What, what do you need right now from your local government, peers and colleagues to get through this challenging time?

Alison Rhodes

I think what has been so helpful to me is that partnership I mentioned earlier. So I am so grateful that there are some incredible professionals here in the state of Colorado and so the partnership that I am seeing from directors and from you know, I mentioned I talked to my former mentor this morning, a former boss, like just the partnership and support from people and the acknowledgement that we’re all dealing with is like no one is acing this right. This is really hard for everybody. And so that that partnership and support is, is one of the best things that is happening and it’s really uplifting. Janet Bartnik, I’ll give a shout out to, she’s the director in mountain recreation, which is in Eagle county and near Vail, and she has just been unrelentlessly willing to share all the tools they’re creating, all the advice she has, and it’s I’m so grateful.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and just a reminder, you know, to check in on your people and to find out, you know, what they’re what they’re dealing with and what they’re going through. And even if you can’t physically be in a conference room with them, they’ll be checking in on your friends and the people that work for you and with you. So that’s a really great reminder.

Alison Rhodes

Yeah, I think you know, you asked about what I need, but thinking about our staff, like, I really think it is important to think about giving them the space to be in this sock, right. Like, this is hard where, you know, some of our employees are homeless, you know, less than school age children and trying to, you know, if it’s two parents, they’re, you know, two working parents trying to get job or if you’re a single parent, like we are all in some really hard situations, and I don’t think we should be, you know, blowing sunshine that, you know, oh, this is so great. We can do this, like, yeah, we can do this, but it’s hard.

Kirsten Wyatt

Mm hmm. And again, a good reminder, because sometimes things can look or seem glossier from the outside, than you know, when you’re actually in the thick of it, so I appreciate you sharing that. So my last question for you. If you could be the GovLove podcast DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?

Alison Rhodes

I think I’m gonna have to go with The Next Right Thing from Frozen 2. So, I was not one of the people who loved Frozen, but Frozen 2 is good. And the Next Right Thing, Anna is you know she’s lost her sister and trying to figure out how to keep going and she just says you know that this is all so much but I’m going to break it down to the next breath, the next step and the next choice is the one that I can make. So I think that’s what we can do to get through this, is just keep doing the next right thing.

Kirsten Wyatt

How many times have you watched Frozen 2 so far?

Alison Rhodes

Just once, just at the movie theater.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh, wow. Oh, good.

Alison Rhodes

But we do listen to Into the Unknown quite a lot.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh, got it. Okay. I’ve definitely seen the memes of families who have watched it like 700 times like during COVID. So yeah, so well. That is a lovely song to end with. We’ll see if Ben Kittelson can dig deep into his producer music box and find that song for this episode. Well, thank you for joining us today and for sharing and your path and your perspectives with us.

Alison Rhodes

Thanks for having me.

Kirsten Wyatt

GovLove is produced by a rotating cast of ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network, and our vision is to amplify the good in local government. We do this by engaging the brightest minds in local government. We have a full suite of COVID information and resources online at elgl.org/COVID-19. If you have a story idea for GovLove, we want to hear it. You could send us a message on Twitter or email [email protected] Thank you for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.


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