Fifty Nifty Takeaways
What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from others’ mistakes than yours.
Our Take on Texas
Who doesn’t have a take on Texas? Of all the 50 states, Texas might be the most polarizing. This may even be true within the state. Some think the state should succeed from the United States, some think everyone in Texas is wealthy, some think every Texan owns a gun, and some think everything on the shows “Dallas” and “Friday Night Lights” is true.
The diversity of opinions on Texas is partially due to the sheer size of Texas. Texas is the second most populous state behind California and is the second largest state behind Alaska. Depending on where we are at in Texas you may feel like you’re in the Deep South or Southwest.
The 50 Nifty lands in Texas to learn about the local government environment. For this task, we have enlisted the help of Amy Buckert, Balcones Heights city administration. Amy came to our attention via a recommendation from Ron Holifield, Strategic Government Resources (SGR).
SGR is a major influencer in Texas and nationwide in local government. SGR is the third largest local government executive search firm in the nation, leading searches from Burien (WA) city manager to El Paso (TX) communications manager. Along with executive searches, SGR offers training on “hot topics” in government. For example, SGR is hosting a one-of-kind conference in January which focuses on Creating a Learning Organization: Leading-Edge Strategies for Employee Development. (Side note: ELGL will be presenting on “Developing Leaders” at the conference.)
What isn’t unique about Texas is the state has its fair share of “interesting” laws similar to the previous states ELGL has profiled. Here’s a sampling of what Texas has to offer in this area.
- Clarendon: It is illegal to dust any public building with a feather duster.
- LeFors: It is illegal to take more than three swallows of beer while standing.
- Mesquite: It is illegal for children to have unusual haircuts.
- Port Arthur: Obnoxious odors may not be emitted while in an elevator.
Balcones Heights City Administrator
Education: The University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Public Administration (MPA) and The University of Texas at San Antonio BA, Psychology
Background Check on Amy (Courtesy of City of Balcones Heights)
A native of the San Antonio area, Amy Buckert is a graduate of Clark High School and UTSA. After earning her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington, she worked in the City Manager’s Office for the Cities of Lewisville and Hurst, both in the DFW area. Ms. Buckert moved back home in 2007 to take the job as the city manager of Olmos Park. After almost four years in that organization, she has joined our team here in Balcones Heights. Ms. Buckert also serves as the Vice President of the Region 8 Texas City Manager’s Association. Ms. Buckert was married to Terry Nolan in 2007, and they welcomed their son, Slade, in February of 2010.
In 2013, Amy was selected as one of the 2013 ’40 Under 40′ Winners by the San Antonio Business Journal.
Background Check on Balcones Heights
Connect: World Wide Web
Balcones Heights (population 2,941) is a suburb of San Antonio. In 1948, Balcones Heights voted against annexing into San Antonio.
The first indoor shopping mall in the city of San Antonio, which opened up with the name “Wonderland Shopping City” and is known as Wonderland of the Americas, lies within the borders of Balcones Heights. Balcones Heights draws a small part of its income revenue from convention and meeting facilities located on mall property and draws a considerable amount of its coffers through its notorious red-light cameras located at four key street intersections within its city limits. Specifically, Balcones Heights drew local attention in late 2006 for being the first location in the San Antonio area to approve the installation of “red-light cameras”; angering many citizens. These cameras, designed to photograph violations of traffic light rules (particularly applying to red lights), were finally installed in March 2007.
Balcones Heights is a Type A General Law municipality. As of 2011, the City Council was Suzanne de Leon-Mayor, Charles W. Matthies-Mayor Pro-tem, Lamar Gillian-Councilman, Linda Pohl-Councilwoman, Charles White-Councilman, Miguel Valverde-Councilman. The City Administrator for Balcones Heights is Amy Buckert.
Best piece of advice from your parents.
Be grateful for what you have; there is always someone out there who is worse off than you.
In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party?
- Motley Crue
- Robert Earl Keen
If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Robert Kennedy
- Jim Morrison
- Jane Adams
- Bill Clinton
Describe the inside of your car.
Goldfish crumbs, work papers, grocery bags, sunglasses, lip gloss and possibly a gummy bear that is MIA
What’s the meaning of life?
To teach us tolerance, gratitude and trust
Q & A with Amy
Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in your state.
- Fiscally suppressed
We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?
I wanted to be an architect when I was 12. My first local government job was as a Management Intern at the City of Hurst. I began my Masters in Social Work and suddenly realized how convoluted various governmental programs and systems were, and how they often hindered the very individuals they were designed to help. Rather than working one-on-one with the client, I chose to get involved to improve systems. I switched to a Masters in Public Administration and have not looked back. Now communities are my “clients” that I help.
Give us your top three career accomplishments.
- Working on various bond packages to expand facilities/capital outlay in communities to serve future residents of those communities
- Bringing an $11M project to Balcones Heights (biggest project to date)
- For a brief time, I was the youngest female City Manager in the State of Texas
We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.
There is no such thing as TOO MUCH communication with your elected officials.
How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?
- Do some PR. Inform them of what you do using all your tools: newsletters, bill inserts, website, social media, etc.
- And engage them – start a Government 101 program for your residents and business owners, get involved in the schools to peak kids’ interest early, and always take the opportunity to explain what it is you do when you are given the chance.
Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?
I would. I think local government is one of the most overlooked career choices for those who want to serve their communities and their country. On the service it looks bureaucratic and boring, but the friends, colleagues and clients/residents you serve will enrich your life more than you can imagine. You take a lot of hits, but there are just as many rewards if you are doing it right.
Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impress.
- Bring something to take notes on/with, and use it
- Make eye contact
- Show me you’ve done some research (read the Strategic Plan, budget, website, SOMETHING)
Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.
- Allan Heindel, Hurst (TX), Deputy City Manager
- Jason Little, Melissa (TX), City Manager
- Julie Johnston, Dickinson (TX) City Administrator
(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be more interactive and progressive thanks to the new generation of leaders rising up now.
What question(s) should we have asked you?
- What is the thing I enjoy most about my job?
- What is the strangest thing that has happened to you since you started your career in local government?
- What have you had to do that you never thought you could do?
50 Nifty Profiles
- NC: Eric Peterson, Town of Hillsborough, Town Manager
- MD: Laura Allen, Town of Berlin, Town Administrator
- IL: Randy Recklaus, Village of Clarendon Hills, Village Manager
- NC: Mitchell Silver, City of Raleigh and American Planning Association
- IL: Patrick Rollens, Village of Oak Park, Social Media and Communications
- KY: Laura Milam Ross, Kentucky League of Cities
- AZ: Gabriel L. Engeland, Town of Gilbert, Assistant to the Town Manager
- SD: Sean Pederson, City of Canton, City Manager
- MI: Clay Pearson, City of Novi, City Manager
- WA/UT: Jon Amundson, City of Richland, WA and City of Orem, UT
- CA, FL, OR: Douglas Ayres, Former City Manager of Inglewood (CA), Melbourne (FL), and Salem (OR)
- California: Brian Angus, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Chief Executive Officer
- Washington/California: Julie Underwood, Shoreline City Manager
- NY: Jay Gsell, Genesee County, County Manager
- SC: Katherine Hendricks, City of Pickens Administrator
- CO: Tim Gagen, Breckenridge Town Manager
- UT: Rick Davis, West Jordan City Manager
- WA: Doug Schulze, Bainbridge Island City Manager and WCMA President
- IA: Geoff Fruin, City of Iowa City, Assistant to the City Manager
- CT: Roger Kemp, Former City Manager and Current President, Kemp Consulting
- AR: Jeff Dingman, Fort Smith Deputy City Administrator