My Story with Jim Healy, Village of Richfield, WI

Posted on January 29, 2015


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VOR Staff-027-AELGL’s mission is to connect, communicate, and educate. In this ongoing series, ELGL members tell their story including how they got into local government.

In 2010, Jim Healy (LinkedIn and Twitter) was appointed the Village Administrator and Planning & Zoning Administrator in Richfield, WI. He serves on the State Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Association of Municipal/County Assistant Managers. Fun Facts about Jim: he interned for Congressman Paul Ryan in 2004 and Jim is a lover of the bowtie. You heard it here first.

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My most frustrating experience in local government was….

This summer on one of our lakes we had a family of five (5) beavers that were causing havoc for dozens of property owners. These beavers were building smaller dams all over the area but towards the end of the season they focused their attention on one gentleman’s property who only lived there part-time. They were relentless with building these gigantic dams! It almost didn’t seem possible that they could be built so fast. The entire summer water levels were rising and falling quicker than I’ve ever seen. Our “No Wake” levels were on for weeks at a time during different points in the summer. Thankfully, after several months the DNR and our local Warden got involved to help trap these pests.

My top three career accomplishments are…

  • 10404357_10152409309617482_5969392268540367827_nRewriting and updating the Village’s Comprehensive Plan in 2014. In Wisconsin it is required to be updated once every 10 years, so I was fortunate to be able to craft one so early on in my career.
  • Winning the ‘CivicPlus: Extreme Website Makeover’ contest in 2013 and being in-charge of the entire website overhaul for Richfield. The Grand Prize that the Village won was worth approximately $60,000 with all the ‘bells and whistles’ when all was said and done.
  • In the last year I’ve been asked to speak at three (3) different conferences regarding technology in government for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin City/County Managers Association, and the American Planning Association. These presentations have highlighted our Village’s work with our municipal website, interactive zoning map, social media presence and other external communication tools we use to connect with our residents.

When no one else is in the car, I….call my dad and ask for career advice.

I aspire to….one day when I retire be able to look back on my career and feel as though I’ve made a difference in the communities I’ve worked in. After I’ve been retired for a while though, I’d like to run for Mayor in my hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin. 

I am afraid of….irrational things that only make sense to neurotic people like me. I’m very George Costanza-like sometimes.

Right now, I am working on….aside from my day-to-day administrative work, I find myself lately working on a few different types of large and small-scale projects. We are currently in the process of updating our impact fees for fire protection and parks which is something we haven’t done since 2009. In February and March we will kick-off our Capital Improvement Plan budgeting so right now we are gathering data on traffic counts from the summertime and also working on updating our Equipment Replacement Plan metrics.

Here are three tips for interviewing……

willis

  • Know the community you are interviewing with inside and out. Study their budget, analyze their Comprehensive Plan, and read their published minutes for as far back as they are posted online.
  • Drive through the community to get a sense of their network of roads and the layout of their various land uses.
  • Speak to administrators in neighboring communities or the previous incumbent, if possible.

In terms of telling the story, I think local government….

downloadIs still really in its infancy with how we utilize technology to benefit the citizens and maximize our own efficiency and effectiveness. Technology, when used correctly, can be a valuable tool for citizens to quickly and easily obtain information on government services, pay permit fees, process requests, and find out what’s occurring in the community they live in. With the proliferation of the ‘smart phone’ we have the opportunity to reach out to our residents and interact with them instantaneously- think about that for a second! That has never been possible before.

The failure of municipalities to NOT embrace technology really seems like a missed opportunity. The desire to consume information is there for a majority of people, it just has to be made accessible to them and in a format they are comfortable with.

If I started a non-profit to assist local government, I would focus on….

Public relations. Going through my MPA program, one of the real gaps I found in education there was the lack of training we received working with the press, writing formal press releases, interviewing, or even the basics of formulating your own ‘message’ for a community. While some larger communities may have Chief Information Officers or individuals who specialize in this field, that is certainly not the case for the majority of communities in the State of Wisconsin. While I think many local governmental organizations have a keen grasp on the management of the “tangible” services they provide residents, what tends to get lost in the shuffle are the “intangibles” like community branding, reputation, credibility with your taxpayers, and ultimately, trust. Providing this type of niche service to local government may go a long way to improving our image with the public and help generate interest in our profession with millennials.

And, one thing that you should know about me is…..

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I love wearing ties to work and on the nights that we have official Village meetings or other community events, I always make a point to wear bowties. It’s something that I have been doing for years and I’ve become identified with. My affinity for bowties started when I was young and never stopped. In total, I think I have somewhere close to 120 ties. Needless to say, I am a pretty easy guy to buy for once Father’s Day and Christmas come around!

For the next person that you interview, I would ask….

Q: If you didn’t work in government, what other career vocation would you have chosen?

You should have asked me….10524658_10152539887032482_8128583733832479158_n

Q: How long have you been at your current place of employment?

A: I started with the Village as in Intern in 2010 and throughout the years I was promoted up the ranks to Community Services Coordinator (2011), Assistant to the Administrator (2013), and ‘Interim Administrator’ in 2014 when my predecessor took employment elsewhere.

In December of 2014, I was fortunate enough that my Board gave me a three (3) year contract of employment. To the best of my knowledge, I am the youngest municipal manager currently in the State of Wisconsin.

Supplemental Reading

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Handout – League of Wisconsin Municipalities – Role of Social Media

Richfield appoints interim village administrator

Richfield bans fast-food restaurants in residential areas

Social Networks Improve Connections

My Story – Archives

 

 

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