How long have you been a FCCMA member?
I joined FCCMA in 2008 and just received my five year pin.
Are you an ICMA member and if so, how long?
Yes, since 2008.
Please describe your areas of formal/advanced education.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Bethune-Cookman College; now University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Howard University. In undergrad, I did summer internships with the Department of Labor and the Urban League of Palm Beach County and a senior internship with Palm Beach County. In addition, I’m a graduate of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators’ Executive Leadership Institute; ELI. ELI is an intensive eight-month executive public management training program held at different public administration schools.
What got you interested in public service?
I became interested in local government early in my childhood. It was sparked from a passion for reading the local newspaper and a curiosity about the “government.” Being raised in a family that was reliant on public assistance, I heard the word “government” all the time. However, I had no idea who or what the “government” was but was glad it existed as, for the most part, that was how my family was able to have food on the table.
In my seventh grade American government class, we did weekly current events and I tended to have articles about something in the county or city. Later in my ninth grade civics class, the teacher did a mock city commission election and city manager selection. I won one of the mock commission seats but became more interested in being the mock city manager. I never lost that early interest in running a city which led to the under graduate and graduate degrees I pursued.
What is your current occupation?
Since January of 2009, I have been the St. Lucie County Administrator.
Please give a brief job description.
I supervise the day-to-day workings of the County, manage the annual budget and carry out the policies and directives of the Board of County Commissioners.
Please describe your typical day.
Given the extraordinary challenges of taking over the reins at the height of the Great Recession, my “typical day” has changed dramatically over the course of the four-and-a-half years. For the better part of the first three years, the organization was going through the “forming and storming” phases. I typically worked 10-12 hour days and on Saturdays. A large part of my days was spent reviewing and signing documents and meeting with the leadership team on various issues and to simply get more up to speed on the operations and budget. I also held regular staff group meetings to educate our workforce on the financial challenges facing the organization and strategic planning staff team meetings to review different actions and initiatives that were being contemplated. In addition, I had weekly briefings with Commissioners and attended the Board’s informal and regular meetings. I also met with community leaders and homeowner groups on a regular basis to build collaborations and establish working relationships as the newly appointed Administrator.
In the last year and a half, the organization has been in the “norming and performing” phases and I’ve made a concerted effort to have more of a work-life balance. I typically now work 8-9 hour days and am seldom in the office on Saturdays. My work days still involve reviewing and signing documents, holding different staff meetings, Commissioners’ briefings and attending the Board’s regular and informal meetings.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I particularly enjoy the diversity of the job and the different challenges from one day to the next and sometimes from one hour to the next. Overall, I find municipal government to be very interesting and managing the organization to be exciting and delivering services to be rewarding. Experiencing those three dimensions of the job helps me stay passionate about serving.
What is your least favorite part of the job?
Becoming St. Lucie County Administrator is my very first Administrator-Manager job. Being appointed to the top spot at the height of the Great Recession (January 2009), I’ve had to guide the County through the resultant financial crisis. For the very first budget that I presented to the Board, the County was facing a $57million general fund operating gap. As such, I’ve had to make some extremely tough and unpopular budget recommendations that included cuts to the Constitutionals, deep service cuts to county-operating programs and significant staff layoffs. Laying off 51 employees in one year during a down economy and knowing there were very few, if any, available employment opportunities has been by far the least favorite part of the job.
What is your most memorable experience on the job?
I’ve had so many memorable experiences at the County. If I had to select the “most memorable one,” it would be: leading the Board’s 2008 Strategic Planning Session while serving as the Assistant County Administrator. The former Administrator allowed me to orchestrate the Session and serve as the Facilitator which was the first time I’d ever led a Strategic Planning Session. The Session included a number of major policy questions and initiatives to change how County business was being conducted. I was incredibly nervous about taking the lead role. At the end of the three days, the former Administrator and Board collectively expressed being pleased with the Session which led into a discussion about the Administrator’s retirement and an unexpected endorsement from the Board for me to become the next County Administrator.
What are hobbies/interests?
I’m pretty well rounded and enjoy the beauty of living. I love traveling and am working hard to get more time doing so into my schedule. I’m an avid football fan and was a football mom throughout my oldest son’s schooling and college career. I particularly love college football and also enjoy pro basketball. I am also a plant lover and have a decent green thumb.
If you could give one piece of advice to young people interested in a career in public service, what would it be?
Be prepared to work hard and smart to make a positive difference in the lives of the residents that the opportunity affords you to serve.
Who were your mentors and how have you passed this information down to other young public administrators?
I’ve had the good fortunate of working for several good City Managers and the former St. Lucie County Administrator. During the two-year internship at the City of Rockville, the Assistant City Manager (Dan Hobbs) sort of took me under his wings and nurtured my development. He was the most impactful mentor in the formative years of my career. I also had good mentors at the City of West Palm Beach (Paul Steinbrenner, Bud Bentley, Pam Brangaccio, Joseph Gallegos, Elvenn Richardson). Throughout my career, I’ve always extended myself to pull along other professionals. And since becoming County Administrator, I’ve taken on mentoring a number of county staff as well as professionals outside the county organization.
Have you always been in the public sector or have you had experience in the private sector?
My entire 30-year career has been in the public sector.
What career would you pick if you were to pick another?
Journalism and broadcasting have always been interesting to me. It would probably be something in one of those fields.