How did you get into local government?
I received my master’s degree in public administration. Public service has always fascinated me. I know you don't get rich, but it's intrinsically good and rewarding work to feel like you're helping the public and making a difference. In local government, you see the constituents that you serve every day and are able to work with them hand-in-hand to solve community problems.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Seventy percent of our community is eligible for free or reduced lunches. We had an opportunity to do a first-ever youth master plan in San Marcos, and I was able to facilitate that.
Our city manager at the time convened different groups and key stakeholders that we named “The Core 4” – the county, city, university, and school district. Working together, we determined the most important projects we could collectively tackle that would help us benefit our community. The youth master plan was one of our accomplishments.
Through the master plan, we were able to determine the desired outcomes for successful youth and ways we can partner in order to achieve the outcomes. Universal pre-K was one of the first initiatives. A bond election was held and approved by the voters. Now we have a full-day pre-K program that is accessible to all community members, regardless of their income.
This wasn't something I did on my own -- it took a huge effort -- but it felt great to be a part of that wonderful team.
Do you have any tips for aspiring women local government managers?
When you look at diversity, it’s about getting the right people for the jobs. But at the same time, it's about diversity of opinions and thoughts, and being able to look at things from a different perspective. There are some challenges but I have been welcomed as a woman in the profession.
When it comes down to it, we all want the same things, regardless of gender. We want to serve our constituents, we want to have great relationships with our staff, and we want to have great relationships with our council. Sometimes it's hard when you have children to establish work-life balance but I think that impacts men also. It is hard to be successful in both areas.
Any other comments regarding diversity?
Again, you’ve got to hire the right person, but it’s also about collaboration and connection of different ideas and different thoughts and different ways of doing things. If you don't have different people that bring different things to the table, then I don't think you really have very effective solutions. And you want to make sure that you know your staff is as representative of the ideas of your community as much as possible, whether that means different races or different genders within your organization. That might happen naturally, but really you're looking for the diversity of ideas to make sure that you know you’re reflecting your community's values when you're determining solutions, approaches, outcomes, and outreach.
How did you get involved with ICMA?
The city manager who hired me – Larry Gilley – introduced me to ICMA. I originally started out as assistant to the city manager in San Marcos. Larry was very involved with ICMA and he encouraged me to join as a member and to attend the annual conference. Coming to that first conference as a scholarship recipient helped acclimate and orient me to the organization and the ICMA network. I’ve been a member for about 14 years and it has been great to be part of a great organization.
What other professional organizations do you belong to?
I have served on the MPA Advisory Council at Texas State University (which is where I received my degree) in the past and belong to the Texas Municipal Human Resources Management Association and the Texas City Management Association. I have been involved with other organizations throughout my tenure but going into human resources, I’ve delved into really making sure that I'm a part of my specific specialty so that I stay involved and understand trends that are happening within human resources. It’s beneficial to be part of ICMA to look at the local government organization holistically and get an administrative perspective as opposed to just one silo.
What are the advantages of belonging to both your state association and ICMA?
It broadens your horizons; it broadens your network. It’s easy to get “stuck.” Through TCMA and ICMA, I’m able to meet people from other places, to learn different ways of doing things, and to expand my horizons in a way that I wouldn't be able to if I just stayed compartmentalized in one particular area.
What would you say to encourage the next generation of local government management professionals?
ICMA is a great organization because you're able to make the connections with people that are within city government and really establish those relationships. I’ve been involved with a number of organizations and participated in trainings from different groups. ICMA always offers the best training, so whether you're a seasoned manager or you're just getting started in the field, it's a great way to make sure that you really get involved and understand things more holistically and more globally in regard to city and county government.
If I'm really just stuck and I need to collaborate or need to bounce an idea off of someone else, I can reach out to people that I've met through ICMA. ICMA has a lot of great research and tools like the website. ICMA provides information on established best practices and insights on understanding local government issues. On a multitude of fronts, I would say ICMA has been helpful.