We’re back with another installment of The Assistant series. Today we hear from Casey Earp, Assistant City Manager for the City of Boulder, Colorado.
Boulder, CO – Assistant City Manager I
Casey Earp serves as the Assistant City Manager I in the City of Boulder, Colorado where he works on project coordination, strategic planning and policy development and general organizational support. Earp graduated from Colorado State University and is working on his Master’s in Public Policy at the University of Colorado, Denver. Previously, Earp served as the Assistant to the City Manager in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In addition to his local government work, Earp has been an active volunteer serving as a Senior Mentor with Partners in Routt County as well as a Board member of Yampa Valley Gives.
Background Check on Boulder, CO
The city of Boulder is in Boulder Valley where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains. West of the city are slabs of sedimentary stone tilted up on the foothills, known as the Flatirons. Boulder is surrounded by thousands of acres of recreational open space, conservation easements, and nature preserves and the city makes environmental protection a top priority. It is also home to the University of Colorado. The population of Boulder is roughly 94,000 and is younger than the national average – largely due to the presence of the University. Additionally, Boulder, CO has been ranked #1 City to Live In for the third year in a row. It is a mixture of urban amenities, healthy outdoor activities and open space and tech entrepreneurs.
I grew up in Steamboat Springs and there is a concert series every summer…The first one I remember jamming to was Spin Doctors.
Before I die I want to…Visit every continent and climb every 14er in Colorado.
Describe the inside of your car.
Right now clean but I have camping plans and a dog that seems to shed hair of every color so next week it will be a disaster.
Dream job as a child: I think a fighter pilot.
Book you are currently reading: For Fun – I am Pilgrim; for work – Social Physics.
If ELGL visited you, where should we go to lunch? The Sink; just to see it.
What was your first local government job?
My first local government job was with the City of Steamboat Springs. I was selected for a program we have in Colorado called the Best & Brightest which is an internship through the Department of Local Affairs. I begged, borrowed, and pleaded to be placed in Steamboat. Through complete luck I was placed in the only office available, right next door to the City Manager. That was a little over three years ago. Duties as assigned was my job, I took on a lot of projects including a downtown redevelopment effort, an enterprise software deployment, and several internal analyses; it was all over the board. The ever changing environment along with the challenging tasks showed me how enjoyable this career could be. I have been moving forward with that in mind ever since.
Three professional accomplishments that you are most proud of:
- Securing a grant for the first public EV station in Steamboat.
- Co-leading a downtown redevelopment project.
- Creating an organization, with a group of folks, called Yampa Valley Gives and raising over $350k in a single day for charity.
The downtown redevelopment project in Steamboat has been my biggest accomplishment. I was the project lead along with the director of planning and we worked through every detail of a new streetscape, additional park space, redevelopment potential of every parcel in the downtown core, project financing, etc… I learned a lot and helped put together a team that got the project across the finish line (albeit right as I was leaving for my new position at the City of Boulder). This project was first discussed in Steamboat the year before I was born and there had been several iterations and attempts to get something passed over the years without success. Watching the meeting, earlier this year, where the decision was made to move forward was very rewarding.
Tell us about three projects you are currently working on:
- I am the team lead for the City of Boulders Innovation Academy group.
- I am working to grow the City of Boulder’s open data catalogue and developing a performance dashboard.
- Right now I am also helping prep for a delegation from India who is coming to Boulder through the City Links, Climate Change program at ICMA.
Give us three tips for succeeding as an Assistant City Manager:
Find a mentor and a manager that will let you take on difficult projects and teach you. Focus on getting broad experience across the organization. Meet everyone you can and spend a lot of time developing your understanding of the organization – both structurally and politically.
Who are your local government mentors?
Deb Hinsvark – My City Manager in Steamboat Springs. She gave me every opportunity to take on difficult projects and develop my capacity in local government. She also supported me through mentorship and on the job training. She was absolutely influential in getting my career started.
Greg Winkler – Greg was my mentor in the Best & Brightest program. He is a former County Manager and had an entire career in local government before I had the pleasure of meeting him. He was honest with me from day one and challenged me to take on difficult projects. He has been a great sounding board for career advice.
Jane Brautigam & Mary Ann Weideman – These are my current City Manager and Assistant City Manager in Boulder. They have provided me the opportunity to work in a top notch organization and learn from the best.
Kathryn Cheever – Is a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver and the reason that I got into the field. Dr. Cheever has been responsible for launching many local government careers in Colorado and I know we are all grateful.
Finding the right work/life balance is a constant struggle for many of us, what is your approach to maintaining your personal life while leading a successful professional career?
I believe first and foremost anyone who actually wants to get into city management needs tounderstand that it is not an 8 or 9-5 job. I am assuming if you are reading this you get that.
I think some of the best advice I have received is that you need to work for a municipality/county that is in line with your lifestyle. For example don’t move to Steamboat if you don’t like the outdoors, snow, and living in a small town. If you take a role in a place that isn’t in line with your life it is going to be difficult. I know what you are thinking, I can make any place work if the opportunity is good enough, and I agree but you need to have a good plan for getting the skills needed to get you to a place you actually like. The work life balance will be thrown way off if your hobbies are not available or accepted in your town. If you are in a state for a while you will find the places you want to be, whether for professional reasons or lifestyle reasons, and once you do you need to make sure those people know you are interested in working for them.
It is also important to identify time each week that you can get exercise or at least do something to disconnect for a little while. The really good thing about local government is that there are very good schedules, for the most part, so you know the few nights a week you don’t have responsibilities. Join a team or take some sort of class that will make you feel bad if you miss.
Local Government is…our best hope.
Help us out by suggesting three topics or speakers we should include in the #ELGL15 Conference.
- Use of Big Data in local government
- Alex Pentland author of Social Physics
- Transportationand development trends
If we ever encounter you on an interview panel, give us a few specific tips for making a good impression:
Be prepared – speak directly to how you fit in the role your interviewing for, research hot topics, ask questions, be yourself, use some humor. You are interviewing also, make sure the office and organization are a good fit. Most importantly, answer the questions specifically and to the point. Don’t spend half the interview answering question 1, if you do there will likely not be a question 2.
What does City/County relations look like in 2020? Getting ever more productive. As projects and cost of projects become greater working together is going to become very important.
Finally, would you encourage your children to consider local government as a career? Of course, it is a great career and one that gives you experience in almost every field.
What question(s) should we have asked you? Tell us something funny…