In this installment of our series, The Transition, Charlotte Colley (LinkedIn and Twitter) discusses the transition from Senior Project Manager in New Albany, Ohio to Village Administrator in New Concord, Ohio.
What I’m Listening to: Local radio stations, NPR, or just enjoying the quiet when I have the opportunity!
What I’m Reading: Village personnel policy, past annual reports, etc.
What I’m Watching: Jake and the Never Land Pirates (my children rule the TV at our house)
What I’m Doing: Trying to find a balance between my new job (and all of the demands on my time that have come with it) and my family time.
What I’m Thinking: I love my job but some days….on the bright side, I’m definitely not bored!
What I Want to Know From You: Reassurance that “wearing all the hats” gets a little easier over time, or maybe that I will get better at it!
Q & A
Before we talk about the job transition, we’re interested in your feedback on a recent ICMA report that the percentage of women in local government managerial roles is not increasing. What are your thoughts on how we can change the tide?
The report gave some really good suggestions on how women in the local government profession could take steps to empower themselves like networking, assessing their skills, working with their partners on family situations and being assertive. I wholeheartedly agree that these are all things that women, either new to the profession or looking to move up in their careers, should be considering.
Ladies, we don’t give ourselves enough credit, often don’t think outside the box when dealing with family issues, and we typically don’t take risks in our careers. We are ready, able, qualified and well positioned to make a greater presence in the local government manager arena, we just need to believe in ourselves and have a little faith.
As a follow up, talk about the three biggest challenges that you’ve faced in becoming a female leader in the workplace.
1) My family. I have two very young boys and I don’t want to miss out on them growing up. Figuring out a balance between work and home has been challenging, some days are better than others. My husband has been extremely supportive, we’re now closer to extended family, and I have a very good Mayor and Council.
2) We’ve always done it this way. My predecessor was a man, and a very good administrator, but when I came into the organization some things changed a bit. We’ve all worked together to make sure any changes made are beneficial for the Village but it’s been a challenge.
3) Translating/understanding technical language (cars, machines, water and wastewater treatment plants, etc.) I’m a girl and I’ve never been mechanically inclined. I’ve picked up a few things during my local government career but moving up into the Village Administrator role has made me learn MUCH more about technical/mechanical terminology. I am very grateful that my staff have been willing to walking me through things and have been patient with me as I try to understand their various operations.
Why New Concord? How did you know that you were ready to become a village administrator?
I grew up about 20 minutes south of New Concord and attended Muskingum College (University now) for my undergraduate education. I’m very familiar with the Village and I love the fact that it is close to both my and my husband’s families. New Concord is a high quality small town with huge potential and I am very excited that I was chosen for the job!
I’ve been here for about 4 months but I still feel a bit out of place in this role. Some days I think that I should still be sitting at “the little kid’s table” and/or that I’m not qualified. I knew this would be a challenge, especially coming from larger cities where there were more staff to handle work, especially specialty areas, but I like challenges. I know I will make mistakes but as long as I am willing to learn from them and keep moving forward things will work out.
Talk about your goals for the first 60 days. Anything you would have changed about your approach?
Being a first time administrator I wanted to make sure I developed a good working relationship with my staff as quickly as possible. I was able to do this fairly well with regular individual and group meetings as soon as I was hired and also by going out to their offices/locations and seeing the work that they were doing.
The Village’s health care benefits were due for renewal and staff were unhappy with the package they had been offered for the past few years. I worked with a new broker to develop a richer benefits package that didn’t break the Village’s bank. This was tough for me because I didn’t have much experience with employee benefits but I was able to get through it and I definitely learned a lot in the process.
When I came to New Concord a fairly large development, for a Village our size, was being discussed for the south end of town. One goal was to get a handle on the development, understand and convince Council to adopt the Village’s design guidelines for the area before major work began, and negotiate a successful annexation with the landowner, the Village and the township. That goal was a bit ambitious! We’re getting close but we’re not there yet. I probably should have been a little more realistic in my initial timeline but that’s ok.
I’m sure there were things I could have changed, like being more realistic with my own timelines for project completion and having a better understanding of healthcare benefit administration and costs, but the first 60 days was a huge blur for me. Lots of people to meet, things to learn, etc. Honestly it was survival but I’m getting my feet under me now and things are going much more smoothly.
What impact did your job transition have on your family?
I moved in with my parents initially and 2 weeks later my husband moved down with our children. We stayed with my parents for a little over a month before we found a rental house. The moves were tough on the kids (and on us!). We’ve been in our rental house since the beginning of November and we’re getting into a routine. We have a good babysitter for the boys, Andrew has a job that is very flexible with my crazy schedule and we’re starting to get immersed in the new community. We also just closed on our old house so now we can start looking for something permanent here! Overall I’ll say that it seemed worse initially than it really was, we got off easy!
Looking back, give us the three accomplishments that you’re most proud of from your time in New Albany.
I was only with New Albany for a little over a year but during that time I was able to update the City’s personnel policy, I assisted with the construction management of the Heit Center for Healthy New Albany, and helped the City hire their first governmental affairs firm. In addition I made some lifelong friends and great working relationships!
You’ve been committed to developing and retaining talent professionals to local government. Give us your “State of the Union” address on how local government is doing in preparing for a future workforce. What can ELGL do to aid in the efforts?
There has been a lot of talk about the need for succession planning to deal with increased retirements and the loss of organizational memory. There has also been a lot of talk about the need for increased opportunities for internships and entry level positions to allow young professionals the opportunity to experience the local government world. If we do not implement these initiatives and fund new internships and positions then it’s all just talk and we won’t be ready for the future workforce. There are talented professionals in our organizations who want to move up in their careers. We should identify these people and help them prepare for that “next step”. We should also try to promote local government to the younger generation and show them all of the exciting and fulfilling careers that are available in our profession!
What question(s) should we have asked you?
Are you reaching out to others in the profession to help you in your transition? Yes!!! I’m lucky to have a very supportive network of city managers and local government professionals that I have been contacting over the past 4 months for various issues that have arisen here. They have been lifesavers!!!
What is your favorite time of day? The hour between when my staff leaves the office/locks the Village Hall front door and I head home. That’s my “magic hour” when I can get work done. The phone doesn’t ring, no one is asking me questions…it’s amazing!
- Guidepost #9 – Charlotte Colley
- Quick Take: Charlotte Colley, Village of New Concord, OH
- My Corner of the World with Charlotte Colley, New Albany (OH) Senior Project Manager
- New Sensation: Charlotte Colley, City of New Albany (OH), Senior Projects Manager
- Charlotte Colley, ’04 – Muskingum University