6 Stories of Recovery and Resilience

From Life, Well Run comes six stories of managers bringing their communities through disasters to a more sustainable future.

ARTICLE | Sep 27, 2017
debris clean up

When disaster strikes – as in the past several weeks through Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria – it has often been the steady hand of professional managers, thrust into the spotlight and on the front lines, leading the way as their communities face uncertainty and begin to recover from the aftermath. Life, Well Run collects and share resources and examples of how professional managers and their staffs build ethical, efficient, effective local government and thriving communities. From the Life, Well Run success stories map, here are several examples of recovery and resilence after disasters. 

Oftentimes it is the professional manager who rallies the resources and partners to bring hope in the face of destruction – as was the case in Greensburg, Kansas. After a tornado destroyed 95 percent of this community, then City Administrator Steve Hewitt not only lead the charge to rebuild, but to completely re-envision a city that would become a model of sustainability and efficiency.  Similarly, in 2011 when Joplin, Missouri, was faced with the costliest tornado in U.S. history, it was then City Manager Mark Rohr leading the charge, coordinating resources, providing constant communication across local, state, and federal agencies, as well as private and nonprofit organizations. As a result of Rohr's leadership, 85 percent of businesses and 76 percent of homes had been repaired by the end of 2012.

Extreme weather comes in many forms and the destructive and devastating impacts of massive flooding are ones that local governments know well. And they also know how to respond well. After a catastrophic flood at the base of the Rocky Mountains resulted in more than $25 million in damage Longmont, Colorado, didn’t stop at repairs – it moved directly into a restoration project called Resilient St. Vrain. City Manager Harold Dominguez, along with Public Works and Natural Resources General Manager Dale Rademacher, are credited for their quick and efficient work with FEMA and providing timely updates to the community and city council to make this project an ongoing success. Further east in Niles, Illinois, local government took a stand against destructive flood waters after a 2008 storm overwhelmed local and regional sewer systems, causing $1.5 million in damage and prompting a federal disaster designation. Working with regional and federal partners, and led by now Village Manager Steve Vinezeano, the village created a Stormwater Commission and robust Stormwater Relief Program that has resulted in the largest infrastructure project in the village’s history.

Professional managers are experts at turning crisis into opportunity – as was the case in Charles City, Iowa. Faced with record flooding that caused significant damage to the riverfront, then City Administrator Tom Brownlow embraced an innovative idea – the development of a new riverfront park and kayak course! The project has been a huge success, boosting tourism and providing a unique recreational outlet for residents.

As with any major event – especially weather-related – communication is key, and a skill well-honed by professional managers. Then City Manager Sean Stegall demonstrated the power of communication during a two-day blizzard that battered Elgin, Illinois. Taking to social media while riding along with snow crews throughout the night, City Manager Stegall provided constant updates and information to residents, urging safety and providing a glimpse into the workings of their local government.

We'd love to add your story to the Life, Well Run map. Email us at lifewellrun@icma.org

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