What To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving - City Managers' Edition
It’s Thanksgiving and we’re not missing a moment to properly thank you, our awesome city managers, who do so many things to make the city run – from long-term strategic planning to implementing welfare policies, to making sure that the city’s infrastructure is structurally sound and up-to-date. Our city managers really listen and respond to what residents have to say. So at this time of Thanksgiving, we’re taking a moment to appreciate these amazing public service officials who look after our every urban need.
It’s time that everyone acknowledges what you already know. So, here’s the scoop – the city’s “inside story”: it’s actually the city manager orchestrating all the different things that make your city run.
Interestingly enough, many people aren’t familiar with the term “city manager” let alone know who their city manager is. But truthfully, a city manager does a whole lot of the work around a city. City managers – who have often committed their entire lives to public service – are usually not known or appreciated enough by residents simply because they do everything behind the scenes. At ZenCity, we’re privileged to work with city managers and their teams on a daily basis.
The laundry list of tasks that city managers are responsible for is long and varied. City managers oversee the city’s budget, direct initiatives across departments, and handle day-to-day issues like fixing broken traffic lights. And at the same time, they are creating and implementing plans for the city’s future. In short, they manage the city – just like their title suggests! Increasingly these responsibilities are more effective with the help of technology which streamlines many of these tasks and processes.
In short, this year for Thanksgiving at ZenCity, we’re taking a moment to express our appreciation for our city managers. Here are just a few of the many reasons why we’ve learned to love them as we work hand-in-hand together.
Because…they are truly interested in what you have to say!
City managers are accessible, open, and interested – looking for innovative ways to make sure city residents continue to share their most pressing concerns while ensuring that the city’s leadership hears them.
By actively seeking feedback from city residents, city managers support a proactive approach to governance that helps drive citizen engagement. One encourages the other: the more residents feel that their city responds to their needs, the more active they become.
Because…they run cities effectively and efficiently!
City managers are constantly measuring the effectiveness of city projects, and in some cases, they’re even light-years ahead, collecting data that allows them to make data-driven decisions in order to spend resources wisely and ensure that the community's needs are being met.
When cities determine KPIs and measure them regularly, they can make better choices about where to invest resources. In the City of Corona, California, for example, the municipality provides an open dashboard called “Corona Open Performance.” The dashboard first gives residents a quick way to access city information at the click of a button, and then presents the data in visual-friendly formats. This help residents make data-driven decisions in real time by working through challenges they are facing, while improving the effectiveness of service delivery and community engagement.
Because…they give residents what they need when they need it!
Many of today’s city managers believe in the importance of continually being proactive and addressing issues that are happening in the city in real-time – i.e., not merely being reactive.
To do this successfully requires actively seeking feedback directly from residents about the quality of municipal services – and then responding by making effective changes. This means city managers must be up-to-date on the latest trends and patterns happening across the city. They make sure to know when they need to step in – whether it’s for something as big as a politically charged murder, or something as small as a downed electricity pole.
We love what the City of Chicago is doing with a system called Windy Grid which informs city leaders about emergencies by accessing around 7 million data points, maps, and analytics daily from Chicago’s 15 most important city departments. Department managers across the city are now identifying potential issues and coordinating responses, helping them allocate the necessary resources for dealing with problems as they arise in real-time.
Because…they have our backs when it comes to the future!
City managers frequently stay in their position much longer than mayors, who – because they are elected officials – tend to end up serving for a shorter period. So when it comes to considering the long-term future of the city, the city manager is really able to think “down the line” about what services and infrastructure projects are best for the city and its residents.
Because many city managers hold the position for a longer period of time, they understand the need for developing a long-term strategy. They know who lives in the city, and what they care about. In West Sacramento, California, for example, the city developed a program called Home Run to improve the city’s overall readiness for the workforce as well as to plan for the prosperity and future of the city as a whole. The “cradle-to-career” initiative uses educational programming from early childhood all the way through college to provide opportunities - including locally based internships and financial support for literacy programs - to produce a stronger and more qualified workforce for the city.
Let’s give city managers the thanks they deserve
City managers do so many things to make the city run – from big projects to day-to-day tasks, to running decade-long, multi-million dollar initiatives – all the while, of course, also handling emergencies.
So this Thanksgiving season, let’s appreciate these amazing public service officials who look after our every urban need. We know at ZenCity, our work is made that much brighter by the dedication and initiative of the city managers in our midst.
Wishing you and yours – wherever you live – a very Happy Thanksgiving!