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.
Our Take on Texas
It’s our second visit to Texas – first time around we heard from Amy Buckert, former City of Balcones Heights, City Administrator. This time we hand the microphone over to Scott Sellers, Kilgore city manager, for his take on local government in Texas.
Who doesn’t have a take on Texas? Of all the 50 states, Texas might be the most polarizing. This may even be true within the state. Some think the state should succeed from the United States, some think everyone in Texas is wealthy, some think every Texan owns a gun, and some think everything on the shows “Dallas” and “Friday Night Lights” is true.
The diversity of opinions on Texas is partially due to the sheer size of Texas. Texas is the second most populous state behind California and is the second largest state behind Alaska. Depending on where we are at in Texas you may feel like you’re in the Deep South or Southwest.
What isn’t unique about Texas is the state has its fair share of “interesting” laws similar to the previous states ELGL has profiled. Here’s a sampling of what Texas has to offer in this area.
- Clarendon: It is illegal to dust any public building with a feather duster.
- LeFors: It is illegal to take more than three swallows of beer while standing.
- Mesquite: It is illegal for children to have unusual haircuts.
- Port Arthur: Obnoxious odors may not be emitted while in an elevator.
Scott graduated cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2006 with a Masters Degree in Public Administration—City Management. Before coming to Kilgore he served as the acting city manager for the City of Montrose, Colorado, and the assistant city manager for the City of Centralia, Illinois.
Scott has a passion for building communities and for serving the public. His economic development efforts have earned the International City/County Management Association’s Community Sustainability Award, and his innovation with the creation of a unified web-portal has been recognized nationally. During his career, Scott has been involved in the creation and/or oversight of several Tax Increment Finance districts, a Business Improvement District, a Downtown Development Authority, streetscape and beautification projects, and historic preservation initiatives. His work has resulted in the redevelopment of multiple downtown buildings and the infusion of millions of dollars into the local economy.
Scott and his wife Amy have six children. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute, an ICMA Credentialed Manager candidate, and candidate for the Certified Public Manager (CPM) credential through the University of Illinois.
The City of Kilgore (population: 13,738) is located in Gregg and Rusk County and is 11 miles south of the county seat of Longview and 25 miles east of Tyler. The City is approximately 120 miles east of Dallas and 60 miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana on Interstate 20. Kilgore has been identified by the Texas Legislature as the “City of Stars.” The stars that top the sixty oil derricks throughout the City are lighted during the holiday season. This feature is only one of several reason the Legislature bestowed the title. Kilgore has a small town atmosphere, yet it is close enough to enjoy the benefits of larger cities. Kilgore is surrounded by a number of quality lakes, including Lake Cherokee and Lake O’ the Pines, making it a boater’s and fisherman’s paradise.
According to the city’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fund Financial Statements, the city’s various funds had $17.4 million in revenues, $19.4 million in expenditures, $19.5 million in total assets, $0.8 million in total liabilities, and $17.5 million in investments.
Notables from Kilgore
- Folk singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie refers to Kilgore and Longview, Texas, in his song “East Texas Red”.
- In the 2011 film Country Strong, actor Garrett Hedlund makes the quote, “Ms. Dallas or Ms. Kilgore? What’s the difference?” to co-star Leighton Meester.
- Actor Matt Damon mentions Kilgore, Texas when impersonating his friend Mathew McConaughey on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Best piece of advice from your parents. Get a job.
In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party?
Ken Cowan and Rick Elliott. Granted, they are organists and not a band, but they are amazing!
(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to…….Serve as many people as possible.
Three most influential books in your life.
- The Book of Mormon
- The Holy Bible
- BYU Graduate Course Catalog
If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?
Too many to list, but basically any Christian historical figure.
Describe the inside of your car. Car seats for the little ones.
What’s the meaning of life? Live to bring honor to my Heavenly and earthly father.
Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in your state.
- Pro council-manager form of government
- No state-shared revenue (bummer) but many unfunded mandates
- Blessed with a robust economy
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?
At age 12 I wanted to join the CIA. However, I ultimately married a woman that did not want to raise our children overseas. I floundered throughout college trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I had six declared majors and ultimately decided on Recreation Management as an undergrad. When I realized I wouldn’t be able to provide for a large family on a small salary, I decided to go back to grad school. I had never really heard of a city manager before, but was desperate for a career. I started reading the graduate course catalog starting at the beginning. Several hours later I reached Master of Public Administration and it contained words such as altruism, service, giving-back, community, etc. These words spoke to me and I knew this was what I needed to do. I had a year-long internship during the MPA program as a budget intern, and ultimately landed my first full-time job as an assistant city manager for the City of Centralia, Illinois.
Give us your top three career accomplishments.
- Starting out as an assistant city manager.
- Redefining the fire service in Kilgore, TX.
- Creating a 54 block downtown taxing district in Montrose, Colorado.
We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.
I took a job as a new city manager ready to change the world. I believe I changed it too quickly and didn’t take enough time to get to know the staff, culture, or community. Next time I will slow down and learn my environment before making waves.
Early on in my career I was too gullible and vulnerable, and I would take gossip for gospel-truth. I made some poor decisions and some enemies based on hearsay. I am now much slower to make rash decisions, and try to hear all sides of the story first.
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?
Most definitely! When they ask what I do, I tell them I am a community builder.
How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?
Constant outreach. I have found that most people don’t care about the role of local government until their lives are negatively impacted. I actually don’t think this is a bad thing. My greatest satisfaction comes when my phone is not ringing. However, I do still think an ongoing marketing campaign is very appropriate. This is done through newsletters, television, newspaper, signage, great looking buildings, signage, etc.
Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?
Absolutely! I encourage everyone I know to pursue a career in local government. It is not always easy, but it is very rewarding and the benefits are great. There are few careers where you can make such a difference in the lives of so many people.
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.
- Don’t be fake (i.e. don’t try too hard). Just be natural. Remember, by the time you receive an interview we already know you can do the job. At this point we are looking for fit.
- Dress professionally.
- Have examples and visual aids of some of the things you have accomplished.
Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.
- Grant Kleinhenz, City Manager for Brownsboro, Indiana
- Bob Herchert, former City Manager of Fort Worth, Texas
- Ron Holifield, Strategic Government Resources CEO and former city manager
(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be ……transforming government at all levels through innovation, transparency, and incredible employees.
What question(s) should we have asked you? How can you promote ELGL in your state?
- Kilgore city survey results in, reveal residents happy
- New Kilgore city manager sees growth potential
- New Kilgore city manager proposes staffing change
- Group will build base in FY15 Group will build base in FY15
- Downtown debate on quiet zone stalls before city council
50 Nifty Archives
- NC: Tom Bonfield, City of Durham City Manager
- WA: Tracy Burrows, MRSC Executive Director
- IN: Nate Nickel, Bloomington Senior Long Range Planner
- IN: Nathan George, Town of Fishers, Deputy Town Manager
- 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