How long have you been a FCCMA member and why did you join?
I was a City Planner prior to transitioning to City Manager. I had been active for many years in the American (and Florida) Planning Associations which had proven vital to my continued professional development. I became a city manager in the spring of 2010, and joined FCCMA the following year in order to continue to learn and grow within the profession.
Are you an ICMA member, why did you join, and how long have you been a member?
I have been a member of the ICMA in the past, and although I am not currently an active member, I still hold myself to ICMA’s Code of Ethics. For me personally, I have found the FCCMA to be more than adequate for my professional development needs for the current stage of my career.
Please describe your areas of formal/advanced education.
I focused my formal education on the areas of Urban Planning and Communication at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Why did you select a career in public service?
I sought a career that would constantly challenge me intellectually as well as provide work that I found both interesting and meaningful. My career in public service has never failed to deliver on all counts.
Have you always been in the public sector or have you had experience in the private sector?
I deliberately took a break from public service and spent five years working as a licensed real estate broker. My intention was to gain experience in things like sales, marketing and business management, but more importantly, I was looking to gain perspective. Career public servants, and particularly those of us in regulatory roles, often lack empathy when it comes to how public policy can impact free enterprise. I believe my years working on the other side of this equation has given me a better understanding of competing needs and interests as well as the sensitivity needed to balance them.
*Notably, the particular five years I worked in real estate spanned both the boom and the bust in the American real estate market and gave me a front row view of one of the greatest financial disasters in our Nation’s history, which itself was quite an education!
Please tell us about your current position.
Currently, I am the City Manager for the City of Perry, Florida, which is the county seat, principal city, and, well, only municipality located in the aptly named “Taylor” County.
Please describe your typical day.
My typical day begins by coming to work a bit early to enjoy a cup of coffee and some light banter with a few other early bird coworkers. Shortly thereafter, City Hall officially opens for business thereby ending any hopes of having a “typical” day. I did mention I’m a City Manager, right?
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is when I get to build something new. Improving communities is what I’m all about, and although there’s endless ways to do that, there’s just something super satisfying about creating tangible improvements that everyone can see, touch and use. When you witness an elderly person using that new crosswalk to safely cross a street, or you hear a child squeal with joy while playing on a new piece of playground equipment, you are rewarded with a sense of satisfaction that your efforts have contributed to improving other people’s lives.
What is your least favorite part of the job?
Whenever a healthy civil discourse erodes into partisan politics.
If you are involved in any volunteer or leadership activities in your community, please share with us a bit about what you do and why it is important to you.
I have for many years volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. In recent years I have also been involved with Second Harvest and their associated food banks and food pantries at the local level. The common thread of these organizations is providing for the most basic human needs in terms of shelter, clothing and sustenance. I believe that but for the grace of God, any among us may someday be in need of the services these organizations provide. I try to do what I can to ensure that help will always be available when needed.
What is your most memorable experience on the job?
I have had so many memorable experiences during my career, but first to mind are my recent experiences in helping our neighboring communities in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Michael. By its very nature, the emergency management realm always provides for memorable experiences. When situations arise that require decision-making that can literally be the difference between life and death, you can feel as though the weight of the world, or at least your local world, rests upon your shoulders. Thankfully, trying times like this also tend to bring out the best in our fellow human beings.
What are your hobbies/interests?
My hobbies include reading, cooking, gardening, biking, motorcycling, nature and photography.
If you could give one piece of advice to people interested in a career in public service, what would it be?
One of the best decisions I ever made related to my career was made while I was still an undergraduate student. I realized that to be a successful city planner, I would need to have good communication skills. I added the appropriate courses to my studies and double majored in Communication. The practical skills I learned in writing, speaking, presentation, public speaking and persuasion have proven to be invaluable to me throughout my career as both a city planner and a city manager. You can accumulate a tremendous amount of knowledge, expertise and experience, but if you can’t communicate it in a way that others can understand and respond to, its nearly useless.
Who were your mentors and how have you passed this information down to other aspiring public administrators?
While I’ve never had any formal mentors, there are many managers who have helped me along my way by providing me with encouragement at just the right times, and by always demonstrating excellence as individuals and professionals, and allowing me to learn from their example. I respect them all and would describe them as my role models. My heartfelt gratitude to Randy Reid, Jim Hanson, Jill Silverboard, Russ Blackburn, Mark Durbin, Oel Wingo, Bill Horne, Wendell Johnson, Ken Small, Joyce Shanahan, Doug Thomas, Lannie Corbin, Ron Carlee, John Anzivino, and many more…
What career would you pick if you were to pick another?
If I had to pick a career other than public service, I would want to be a professional NBA basketball player. Specifically, I would be Michael Jordan. In the meantime, I’m happy to simply be known as the “Michael Jordan” of city managers!
Do you have a story you can share about how being a member of FCCMA has helped you or impacted you in a positive way?
There’s an old saying that it’s lonely at the top. I think the job of a city manager can at times feel very lonely. All eyes are on you, and you alone are tasked with making many of the most difficult decisions that need to be made. My association with FCCMA, and the network of colleagues I have made over the years, provides me with my very own support group. Having other city managers to reach out to in times of need, who can truly understand what it feels like to have the buck stop with you, has been the single greatest gift that FCCMA has given me.