ELGL’s mission is to connect, communicate, and educate. One way we do that is by “telling our story.” India Adams, Derek Matheson, Cathy Wilson have shared their story, now Barack Matite, Eudora, KS assistant to the city manager, takes center stage.
I started working in local government because….I had nothing better to do (just kidding!!). I have always had an insatiable desire to make a difference in the world and make it a better place but never knew exactly what to do or how to go about doing that until I was introduced to local government through the various local government internships that I did. I credit John Harrenstein (my former boss and current North Mankato, MN city administrator) for recognizing the passion that I had for local government and encouraging me to pursue an MPA at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!). Joining the KU MPA program is THE best decision I’ve ever made!!
My first experience in local government was…..working at the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City as an unpaid part time intern in the Land Use and Planning Department. At the UG, I did what interns do best; make coffee (just kidding!!). It was here that I found out what it was like working in a local government system. I did some research for the planning staff, some data entry work among other things. I sat on site plan review meetings and learned a lot just by observing and listening. (You would be surprised how much one can learn by just listening.)
My most frustrating experience in local government was….mmmm….working with an ineffective quasi-governmental local organization that I know I need to work/collaborate with to achieve the community’s visions and aspirations. It is difficult at times but I have to constantly remind myself to be calm and focus on the mission.
My top three career accomplishments are:
I wrote a trail grant that was awarded to us by Sunflower Foundation. In order to make the grant more competitive and increase our chances of being awarded the grant, I had to visit with the Eudora School District officials to inquire if they would be interested in being a partner in the trail project and provide additional funding. After a few meetings, the city and the school officials agreed that the community would gain a lot from the trail project and agreed to collaborate. (When the trail was complete and I saw school kids and mothers pushing their babies on their strollers on the trail, I was very emotional. I knew that I played a role in making that happen: it was then that I knew I had made a difference!)
I worked with colleagues to develop and enhance the city of Eudora’s citizen engagement tools. Without a daily newspaper, at times it is difficult for small cities to share any news or announcements. Being in this situation, we were determined to engage with our citizenry where they were: social media platforms. At the direction of the city manager, we created the City of Eudora’s Facebook page, Eudora Weekly (our weekly newsletter), Twitter account, and Flickr page and constantly feed content to all these platforms. If we don’t upload any content to the platforms, losing our audience is a real and undesired possibility. We want citizens to stay engaged with what is going on in the community.
In my conversations with the businesses in our community, I realized that some of the businesses were not utilizing the numerous local and state resources that are available to them. I worked diligently (and still do) to ensure that they are connected to the best resources. These include: access to finance, business plan development consultation, market studies etc. Once this was achieved, we witnessed the business owners make the most of the resources to enhance their businesses and grow and/or become more efficient.
I am currently working on……
Together with the city manager, Gary Ortiz, we are facilitating the redevelopment of an old building in our downtown district that is dilapidated and has been vacant for a long time. We are working with the building owners, a developer and a couple of prospective tenants/owners to come up with a development solution/package that will be feasible and beneficial to all parties involved and the community. (Conversations are going back and forth and at times they don’t yield favorable results but am learning that one should not lose focus on the mission, especially if the outcome will benefit the community)
I am also working with five other community members to form Eudora Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB) that will be the organization to promote the city of Eudora as an ideal community to live, work and recreate in Northeast Kansas. We hope to complete the incorporation process soon and officially launch the CVB website and social media platforms by January 2015.
Our website is due for a redesign and some content adjustments. I am conducting research to find out what our options are and how best we can come up with a website that works both for our organization and the public.
My suggestions for interviewing…..
- Be passionate: One has to be passionate about the work they do, how they do it and take great pride on their accomplishments.
- Be proactive: Having someone who gets out to the balcony to survey the organization to find out what needs to be done and doing it is a quality individual. Don’t wait to be told what to do.
- Be competent and confident: It is very valuable to know what you know and know what you don’t know and knowing how to know what you don’t know. (Ask questions!)
I am afraid of… snakes. Show me a snake and I will show you how to run. (I am not kidding!).
I am also afraid of not being prepared for meetings or discussion(s) on issues that I know are very important to our community. That fear makes me over prepare for meetings which sometimes ends up being a good thing or a bad thing depending on the issue and/or the meeting.
I think local government could better tell its story……
With all the numerous forms of communication tools and platforms that are available out there, it is sometimes difficult for local governments to tell their story and it be heard by their target audience. Finding the right tool/platform(s) that works for your community and using it consistently and effectively might be best option to tell your story.
Having a traditional town hall meeting to talk about issues or projects might be more effective for one community and hosting a Google+ forum might be effective for another community to talk about their issues/projects. Different issues/project might need different communication mechanisms. The key is finding what works in your community and for your organization.
I think you should ask the next person completing this profile…..
How do you achieve work/life balance? Public management careers can and does take a toll on people. I believe it’s important to find a way to relive the pressures of work somehow. (I recently started running at least 2 or 3 days a week.)
You should have asked me….
What are you doing to prepare the next generation of public managers/leaders? This profession gives us so much that the thought of not giving back is just not cool.