Time Out for Mentoring with Mary Jacobs, Sierra Vista (AZ) Assistant City Manager

Posted on October 27, 2014

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Assistant City Manager Mary Jacobs applies values to job


Similar to how Frasier spun off from Cheers, ELGL has spun off our Quick Take series into Time Out for Mentoring. We’ve invited those who were named a mentor in our Quick Take series to answer two simple questions, “who are your mentors?” and “what does it mean to be a mentor?”

In our mind, mentoring is not defined by age. Generation X can just as easy mentor Baby Boomers on new technologies such as SeeClickFix or MuniRent as Baby Boomers can mentor Generation X on tips for advancing the local government career ladder.

Pam Weir, Sierra Vista (AZ) Management Analyst, named Mary Jacobs as one of her mentors. Today, Mary provides her thoughts on mentoring in local government.

Background Check

Mary Jacobs (LinkedIn) was hired as Sierra Vista’s first Assistant City Manager in March of 2000.  Prior to this position, Jacobs served as the Assistant Town Manager of Barnstable, Massachusetts on Cape Cod for six years.  She also worked in several professional and managerial positions for Maricopa County, Arizona from 1989 – 1994.

During her six years in Massachusetts, Jacobs was responsible for managing a variety of departments and tasks for the Town of Barnstable, including preparation of the annual budget and capital improvement plans, collective bargaining with five unions, supervising the planning, historic preservation, health, building, conservation, harbormaster, natural resources, and consumer affairs functions of the town, as well as a multitude of other responsibilities.

Jacobs holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of Arizona.

Time Out for Mentoring


by Mary Jacobs

When I was first in local government out of graduate school, my mentor was my boss, who was an assistant county manager.  To this day, he is the strongest and most influential mentor I have ever had.  I had a brand new position within the county manager’s office, and he gave me tasks and responsibilities specifically designed to help me get a real feel for what he does and how he does it.  One simple thing he had me do was to go through his in-box (it wasn’t electronic in the late 80’s when I started!) with his secretary and determine what I could take off his plate, what I could get more information for prior to giving it to him, what could be immediately referred to another person/department, etc.  He taught me lessons I still remember to this day, such as if you come back to your office and have five phone messages, one of which is a reporter, always call the reporter first in order to maintain good relationships with the media.  Seems simple enough, right?  Lots of people don’t do that.

mentoringSince then, I have found a few mentors along the way who have been colleagues in other communities…even in other states.  Sometimes these mentors have provided assistance during particular times in my life or with certain projects/issues, and others have just been there when I needed to bend an ear.  The state and national conferences have been invaluable in helping me identify folks who I click with.

I enjoy very much being a mentor not only to ICMA Emerging Leaders Development Program (ELDP) participants, but to others who I have also met during my career.  Few have been from my own organization, but several through meeting at state conferences or within my region.  I’m not an expert in everything, but I do have a willing ear to bend and I have a passion for seeing young people move up in or continue in this noble career of local government.  I have recommended ways to approach a boss about a situation, brainstormed ideas, reviewed resumes, conducted mock interviews, and conveyed countless attaboys.  Sometimes my mentorship is a few conversations, sometimes a few years.  As a woman, I am also very interested in seeing young women stay in the profession and continue to pursue city management positions.

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