This guest blog is by ELGL member Scott Lewandowski, the Senior Contracting Agent at Colorado Springs Utilities. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn!
Our profession has a tendency of taking us places you never thought of just for experience’s sake. For three and a half years, I had the distinct pleasure of serving a small mountain town in southwest Colorado whose biggest claim to fame is its healing waters and its proximity to some of the best skiing in the country. Natural beauty aside, the community experienced a prolonged recession and lacked consistent professional management for the longest time.
I naively thought that a small mountain town was going to be more a little more mellow than my government experience in the Denver metro area and it turns out I was wrong.
A project backlog, minimal resources, lack of operational systems and growing costs for construction increased the degree of difficulty on a daily basis. Even MacGvyer would have trouble saving the day.
The demands of the job largely contributed to a decline in both mental and physical health. My schedule didn’t allow for a lot of self care and the close knit nature of the community didn’t allow for a large enough degree of separation from work leaving me even more drained at times. This was compounded by the fact that quality healthcare was anywhere from an hour to six hours away.
The tipping point happened late in my tenure when I snapped at a resident for asking a simple question, while getting coffee one early morning after a late night council meeting (please note coffee was not in my system at the time of exchange.) It wasn’t just the lack of coffee in this situation, something had to change.
While on a lunch walk, I was listening to one of my favorite non government related podcasts called Safety Third, which I highly recommend. The focus of the episode was priorities and the subject of the interview was the owner of Jackson kayaks and life got in the way of his personal goals of becoming an Olympic winning kayaker, so he made a priority list and stuck to it.
That thirty minute podcast facilitated a lightbulb moment, what are my priorities? I have made my career and its progression number one since I can even remember to my own detriment to my health, relationships, and family.
It was time to rethink my priorities and so I took the weekend to think about mine and came up with three: wellness, community, and career.
That list spurred a recent move to have better access to healthcare, a new opportunity to develop a stronger personal community and it allowed me to stay within the public sector, just in a different capacity. I still have a sticky note with all three priorities on my work phone as a reminder.
Now I am more focused on healthy living, staying active, and contributing to my new community. First couple of things I did when I moved was bought a new road bike and joined a city committee to share my skill set.
My time in SW Colorado was extremely rewarding and am truly proud of the work that was accomplished together, but it came with a price.
If you get anything out of this article, besides a great podcast recommendation, please take care of yourself while serving others. Hopefully this article serves as a reminder to do so.