August 20, 2006, I realized that on August 20, 1981, I walked into City Hall on my first day as City Manager. Today is my 25th Anniversary as City Manager!
Would I do it again. You bet! I remember how I considered all the factors before accepting my first City Manager job, thinking of all the challenges and risks. Somehow, I knew from the start it was for me.
One of the first things I realized was that my jokes suddenly became funnier! (Of course, I knew the real reason!)
Although I can always see places where I would have done different in retrospect, I do feel I learned from my mistakes. Although I occasionally repeat my mistakes, I find myself repeating fewer and fewer of them, and, of course, occasionally making new ones.
Several years ago, at a Toastmasters meeting, I was asked what would I do if I won a large prize, such as 50 million dollars. I thought about it, and finally decided I wouldn’t really change anything, except perhaps buy a better car etc., but I certainly wouldn’t quit as City Manager!
Some brief history, when I was a small child, although I grew up on a farm, I played “City Manager”, although I didn’t call it that. I had rocks and sticks for cars and buildings and I built several enterprising “cities” and played for hours managing the cities.
I started working for a city when I was in high school. I mowed streets, parks, the cemetery and helped locate water lines etc. One of my most memorable moments was when the Water Superintendent and I tore up a yard and I first heard the phrase “ I’m going to sue”. (We actually got it worked out. I found I had the “gift” of finding water lines with a wire coat hanger and that is how we located them after that.)
I actually got my first career job with a City because I got “stood up” for a date. I was attending Wichita State University for my Masters Degree and had just finished my degree requirements. While I was dejectedly driving back after I realized my “date” was not there, at a job light, one of my Professors pulled up along side of me and yelled about a job opening at a City in western Kansas.
I called him the next day, sent in my application and got the job as “Assistant to the City Manager”. The City Manager showed me my office and advised me my job was to “get a grant” to revitalize a section of the City. (This was in October of 1974).
One special situation I remember is during my first few months on the job is standing in line for a movie and I looked at the people and a chill went down my back when I thought, “I help improve their daily lives by my work”. The chill has never left. I enjoy my job and I enjoy working for cities and especially with the residents, elected officials, volunteer boards and other City personnel. Everyone may have different beliefs on what to do, but almost all have the goal of improving the community.
The 25 years (and the 32 years of working for cities) has gone fast. I find it fulfilling that I still look forward to going to work after 32 years and I can’t think of anything I would rather do!