Transcripts

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Joe Supervielle: Welcome to Voices in Local Government, an ICMA podcast. My name is Joe Supervielle, with us now is Mr. Reese Goad, City Manager of Tallahassee, Florida, talk with us about creating a one team identity for all the city's employees. Thanks for joining us today, sir.

Reese Goad: Great to be here, thank you, Joe.

Joe Supervielle: Later in this episode, we'll be talking with a few of your department heads, but it's also great to get the city manager's perspective. So take us back to the beginning. Talk to us about the early stages, and when was it that you realized the city really needed to experience a culture shift to this one team identity?

Reese Goad: Really, it goes back prior to my time as city manager. I've been the city manager of Tallahassee for about four years now, but I've worked for the city for 21 years. I began my career in a shared services department that supported our utility operations, that include an electric utility, a gas utility, water, sewer, really the full suite of utility services.

And as I sat in the crossroads of a big portion of our operation, I realized that oftentimes there could be a divide between what some would refer to as the city, and as the individual departments, of course the departments collectively make up the city. We're all one, but you could hear potentially a divide, lack of cohesion. And so that's something I've observed early on in my career, and I've had the opportunity to work in many different areas, and when I became city manager, it was very apparent to me that there was opportunity to build a more cohesive team, one with a single vision, one that could even achieve greater results by being one.

Joe Supervielle: You hit on it right there. When things are siloed, what challenges does that present? What kind of problems comes off that? Obviously, some inefficiencies probably, but you kind of just set the window why, why was the old way not working?

Reese Goad: It's a great question. And in fact, it works. So the old way works, it just doesn't work as well as it could. And so I'll use an example, maybe an odd example. But we also run two golf courses in Tallahassee, as an example, relatively small portion of our operation. It's an enterprise fun, it's not part of our parks or recreation group.

But the more help that particular operation, it's about a million dollar a year operation in a billion-dollar budget, our overall city budget's a billion dollars, so very small. But we really had an experiment with the, could we wrap around all of the services of the city, whether it be the utility, just expertise, or their resources, or our technology and innovation group? How could we lend our help to an enterprise that's relatively small and make it better?

And I can tell you that experiment, that test case worked just fantastic. And we took an enterprise of a million dollars that was losing $250,000 a year, turned it into a profitable department, and one that's thoroughly enjoyed by our public. What you find, and I think it is obvious, I think it goes without saying, but we've proven it to ourselves, as you work together as a team, and you draw upon the expertise or the resources of departments in areas that may not naturally seem to be connected, you can achieve better results.

And so, the why is, can we do better than we have done in the past through teamwork and working together? And the answer is, yes, we've proven it and we continue to reinforce that.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, you mentioned the golf course, I surely shot well into triple digits on those courses way back, 15 years ago, and I was actually supposedly half decent, but ... You also mentioned the size, just for a little bit of background, I should asked earlier but some people may know Tallahassee for Florida State University, you've been watching a football team on TV, but just for our audience of city managers and local government professionals, what's the population size? How many employees do you have? Just give them a little sense, because in my mind, it's kind of midsize town or city but you tell me.

Reese Goad: Joe, I appreciate the question. I think we're surprisingly large in the eyes of some. We are a solidly mid-sized city in the United States. We're a population of 200,000, we are the nucleus of the region, which is just less than 400,000. We have about 4,000 employees working any given day, serving our community. As I mentioned before, we have the full suite of utilities, we provide police service, we provide fire service for the entire county, we have an airport, we have a transit system.

We have a lot of services, and in fact, if you compare us to other Florida cities, we tend to have the most services, especially for a city of our size. Normally, when you approach a couple 100,000 residents, things such as utilities and transit in airport seem to be divested, operated by authorities or private companies. We provide all of those services in Tallahassee, we pride ourselves in that, we're really able to reflect the culture of the community and the services we provide because of it.

Joe Supervielle: Yep, thanks for that background. And I think for a lot of people listening, they likely don't need to be convinced on the why, they agree that, "Hey, I wish I could get my departments communicating better and kind of working together towards that bigger goal." So besides the why, let's get into the how. Can you give us some key steps or specific examples? How you ... Well, I guess two parts, first explain the reasoning behind why you're doing it to get the buy-in. But then even more importantly, once that buy-in happens, how do you actually start to execute moving these departments into the one team identity?

Reese Goad: I think it's an excellent question and it's much easier said than done, the why. I think most would accept is obvious and beneficial, but at the end of the day, and you've used this word previously, it's a culture. So this isn't a list of policies, and procedures, and requirements that you simply put in place and people execute. This is something that you believe in, something that you practice every day.

If it's just my vision, it doesn't work. So I have to create buy-in, that happens immediately with my team of Deputy City Manager and assistant city managers and cascades down through the departments. So there's a couple dozen departments that do all of the services I've described in the City of Tallahassee, and it's about convincing people in those key leadership roles that part of leadership is also teamwork.

It takes a lot of time and effort to create a belief, to create a culture of teamwork. And we've been able to do that, and I will say that it's a constant thing. And you can even backslide when you've made progress, and you found your sweet spot, and you're working together. And honestly, it kind of creates its own inertia. You learn of teamwork that's happening that you don't even know about when you really hit your stride. But if you don't constantly reinforce the need for teamwork, it's easier to operate as a department in a siloed environment than it is in a team environment.

That's one in which you're comparing notes with your colleagues, you're developing agenda material and recommended strategies, having collaborated with your peers. And so it's one of constant reinforcement, but ultimately an inculcation of your leadership team to believe in the approach and to believe that makes us better. And so it starts with the top, but it takes a lot of work, and honesty, and being genuine as to why we're doing it, and how it can make us better. Results, help when people can see the results and they can see the benefit, and I could go on all day, frankly, about the resistance at times because it's simply easier to make your own decisions and not have to work with others.

But when that light bulb goes off, and a department director sees the benefit of working with someone else and how that can benefit their operations, will say, "They're so committed to ..." That's the whole equation comes together, and you really get the benefit. So it's a commitment I belief to a culture, and a reinforcement of that.

Joe Supervielle: And you want that to trickle down, not just to the department heads, but even the people working underneath them, and just the everyday employees there. So it's not just about leadership meetings, or saying, "We need more communication, let's have more emails, let's have more in-person meetings or Zooms these days." How did you empower those people without necessarily the fancy or big title to take it upon themselves to work across departments and maybe preempt issues are preempt possible confusion so that everything can run smoother?

Reese Goad: That takes leadership down through the overall management hierarchy. So of course, I can say it, I can be a living example of it, but the departments and the employees in the departments, and some are many, some are hundreds of members in an individual department, they have to hear it and see it from their leadership, their department directors, their supervisors, their foreman.

And so that's where the belief in the culture makes a difference, so as I have a department head that believes it, has internalized it and expressed it as his or hers, it begins to work. I'm going to give you an example, our electric utility's very big, half a billion dollar a year enterprise, it's our single biggest enterprise in the City of Tallahassee, it has existed for 100 years, it is an essential part of who we are, financially and culturally. It can totally operate on its own, it has all the abilities and resources to operate on its own.

An essential piece of what it does is provides $40 million in profit every year to be plowed back into our other services like police, and parks, and recreation. And oftentimes, in the past, you would have heard the utility or the utility employee say, "Well, our rates could be less if that $40 million was not transferred to the police department," let's say. That was a really big uphill battle to convince the employees in that department that one of their main purposes, if not the most important purpose, was to take dollars that would have otherwise been given to shareholders and left the Tallahassee area, and be used for important things that enrich the quality of life of our community that we live in.

And let me tell you, that message, that understanding was embraced by the department head, his leadership team, and down the line. And I couldn't be more proud of that particular department today, because it is so easy to reject it, it is so easy to stand on your own and say, "Hey, we're big, and we're strong, and we're capable, and we don't need anybody else." And get caught up in that thought process, but really, why do we exist? And we exist to support our peers and sister departments, because it makes our community better, the one in which we live in.

So that happens with people, that happens with the people believing and activating, it is not me saying it only, it's those that are respected and looked upon, that are closest to the frontline employees, believing in the message and repeating the message. And it works fantastic once you get there.

Joe Supervielle: Yep. And the bigger goal that the one team identity is working for is the service of the public, that public, different levels of how people are informed. They're not but they might have the utility bill, they might pay the local taxes, whatever other kind of taxes. They don't necessarily know or care how that money's being divided, but they do know and care the end results for them.

The school system, the roads, how quick those utilities get back on after a hurricane or whatever it might be. So yeah, the utility department has this big pot of money, but there's a bigger picture for the public at the end of the day.

Reese Goad: That's right.

Joe Supervielle: Aside from just the money, when you're talking to the different departments about this, have you seen kind of light-bulb moments where they see that it's not just about, "Well, now we have to do X, Y and Z for these other departments." They see that they'll be reciprocated in their efforts because, "We also need one, two and three from these other departments, so it's a give and take where it's not just about more tasks, or we have to do extra, we have to throw our money elsewhere, it can come back and hopefully come full circle, so everyone is lifted up?"

Reese Goad: No, that's totally the case. And it's not balanced necessarily. They shouldn't be expected. But you do see that, and really that's through relationships. You see the strengthening of relationships, the respect of each other, and the expertise that people bring to the table. I think about our StarMetro or transit department, that's a very challenging sector, extraordinarily challenging.

There's a general belief of the public that somehow it should pay for itself by way of the fees that riders pay. That's not the case, the model doesn't work that way. And it's one that is oftentimes criticized, and people want it to be different, and better, and more with a different vision. And I can tell you that we have historically struggled in that area to meet expectations of the public, to have the public feel that it's value add for the community. And through this kind of effort of teamwork, with our fleet department, and our IT department, our communications department, I can tell you people have a really high opinion of our StarMetro transit system today.

So, the end result is, you know your community loves it, and the department director see that equation, it's like the secret ingredients that go into a cake that make it great. It is not one and one makes two, this is an exponential outcome of areas that historically are challenged. And so you see the light bulb go off because the results speak for themselves, and that's what encourages the continuation of culture. And I could go on, and on, and on in these non-traditional areas that have come together to work together to support each other, and then ultimately, our community is the beneficiary.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, and you've explained how this is not an overnight process, it takes ongoing efforts. So how do you measure success in whatever timeframe you want to give? You gave us a great example of the utility department getting on board and understanding that some of that money needs to go elsewhere. Do you have any other kind of big win examples or, again, just how do you measure success in whatever timeframe makes sense for you?

Reese Goad: That's a really good question. And I think there's multiple levels in success. And even in the public sector, it's far more difficult to measure success than in corporate America. Corporate America has measured success financially through the enrichment of their stockholders, it's pretty straightforward. Our world is different, we serve a public. And so there's the feeling factor, how do people feel about their local government? That's a big deal.

Do they feel well served? Do they feel like the culture of their community is strong and improving? And is their government interested in prioritizing the things that they're interested in? So it positions us to be better at that. So in other words, how does our community feel about its local government? Very difficult to measure, but as my dad would have said, you know when you see it, and that matters.

We've of course, though, want to measure ourselves against our peers. And so, how do we fare in terms of success of departments, in particular, compared to other similar departments around the country? It's a good measuring stick, are we professional? Are we growing? Are we acknowledged around the state and around the nation? So that's certainly a measuring stick we use and then ultimately, as the city manager, I'm going to measure our ability and success on how well can we respond to the issues of the day?

Are we put together in a way as things happen, whatever it is, a chronic issue that we need to deal with locally or on an emergency issue, how well does the team perform? And that's something that as a professional manager, you know it, how well functioning the team is. So under any kind of stress, any difficult situations, can you overcome those? And so, it certainly is like having a healthy operation, the teamwork puts you in a good position to be successful there.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, so it's not always about numbers, it's something tangible of the feeling. But it is just the overall success and what the public thinks of the local government there. And you said it yourself, how do you feel about the local government? I want to share a quick story. I think it was about 2003, I'd gotten my first real apartment after moving out of the dorm room from Tallahassee. And I got hit, I can't remember if it was the electric or water or both, but I got hit with that first bill.

And I didn't expect it, I didn't know what was going on. Of course, splitting it with roommates and all this. I called up the customer service department and they just walked me through everything. And I was 18, 19 years old, but it was it was a good feeling that I didn't know what to expect, and next thing I know the local government, which never crossed my mind before that, was just very helpful in not only explained to me how to pay it or what to do, but just the general tips on how to manage those bills.

And then the funny part was back then it was not online, so I did the drive-thru, and they actually had that little tunnel system where the little capsule would come through, and you'd put your check in the capsule. And again, this is my like first adult experience, I didn't know if I was in the future, or in the past, it was a very odd experience. But when it was over, I felt good about it. I thought, "Hey, this local government, I'm just 19 year old, it doesn't even really pay taxes yet. But they care about me and they want to make my experience good."

So that's stuck with me all this time and I've loved Tallahassee ever since. So Mr. Goad, thanks for joining us today, thanks for your insights on the one team identity. I appreciate your time today.

Reese Goad: Joe, it's been a pleasure. I really love the story that you just shared, because that is our story. You may have that only one interaction, but it is your local government here to support you and you feel good about it. And it's just great to talk about this, I think this is important. And just have to share what we can. Thank you.

Joe Supervielle: We're joined now by Karen Jumonville, Growth Management Director of the City of Tallahassee, thanks for joining us today.

Karen Jumonville: Thank you for having me.

Joe Supervielle: So as an opener, can you just give us the quick intro on your department, how that department kind of fits in with the bigger team there in the city?

Karen Jumonville: Sure, in growth management, we are the permitting people. So we're a team of 71, and we manage all aspects of the development review and inspection processes in the city. So that includes everything from subdivisions and site plans to environmental permitting, and stormwater reviews, building permitting and inspections.

So basically, we make sure that development meets the state of Florida building code, all the life safety codes, and then also our locally adopted environmental and zoning regulations. So we're looking to make sure that the development that occurs is consistent with our longer range plans for how we want to grow as a community.

Joe Supervielle: Okay, so continuing the one team identity for today's podcast, can you talk a little bit about where your department was about a decade ago, and what have been some of the biggest changes since?

Karen Jumonville: Sure, I'd say the biggest changes in the department relate to the implementation of new technologies, they've really transformed the way we do business in permitting, both from the standpoint of our staff and our internal team, but also our customers. All of our permit applications and our all of our staff reviews are now electronic. So, in terms of the business processes that we use, they're completely different.

And even recently, with COVID, our inspections are now virtual to some extent, all of our mechanical and gas inspections, and recently, roofing inspections are done virtually.

Joe Supervielle: Right. And I would imagine that helps the efficiency and just everything runs a little smoother when it's electronic versus maybe the old way of paper.

Karen Jumonville: It does, and it's also changed what our customers need from us in terms of support. Our permit coordinators, for example, take in application. So in the old days, they would sit across a table from customers and go through a stack of papers to make sure the applications were complete, and it was face-to-face. But now, they go through that same process, but it's all electronic, not face-to-face interaction.

They're still doing their completeness checks, but they have to really be knowledgeable, not just about what needs to be in the applications, but they have to be very well versed in technology so that they can help walk our customers through the process electronically, and they also help to troubleshoot. So everything from using the wrong browser, things that can frustrate customers, they're the first line of customer assistance as people go through that electronic process.

Joe Supervielle: So, what has been the most important part of that development getting to where you are now?

Karen Jumonville: I would say teamwork and staying focused on our mission, our mission of customer service. So a major part of the electronic process and going electronic, it involves reaching across many, many departmental boundaries. So, we had to make staff from all the departments that are involved in the development review, we had to incorporate them as we developed the new procedures, because it's one thing to create new processes for us in growth management, but if they're not going to work with the other business units, the project's not going to be a success for our customers.

So, we really had to get everybody on board with the new system, and our performance measures, and review deadlines. We did that by staying focused on our mission to improve service and efficiency for our customers.

Joe Supervielle: So, what made you buy into the one team identity that the city and the city management, the leadership team there has kind of laid out? What helped the buy-in process for you and your team?

Karen Jumonville: Well, I went into this profession because I like customer service, and I like helping people. So the mission is really pretty easy to buy into because we're so much more effective when we work as a team, and we're working toward common goals. The city has a strong culture of customer service, and we help each other across all levels of the organization.

So even at the assistant city manager level, they cross service area lines all the time to solve problems. And they're not territorial, so we're expected to be problem solvers and support each other in our mission.

Joe Supervielle: You’ve kind of touched it already, but how does your department view their role in terms of the broader organization? It seems like the permitting process is you and your team, but that touches so many different areas in other groups. So how do you all fit in?

Karen Jumonville: It does. I mean, at a high level, we exist to support the city's mission and vision and further the goals that we have in our strategic plan. But this includes everything from economic development, to quality of life, and enhancing public trust, promoting affordable housing. Everything that we do in growth management on a daily basis can fit into those groupings and those categories.

When the city adopted the strategic plan, we developed our own departmental plan, and it identifies the list of things we do to support the city's plan. So it focuses our efforts, and every year, we get an opportunity to meet with the city manager and the executive team to talk about our goals and the progress that we've made each year. What we try to do is, instead of looking at our job narrowly, like we're just coming in to do plan review or inspection, we try to connect it to something larger.

When we approve a development plan that has inclusionary housing, we try to link it to the goal of reducing the impact of poverty. We're preserving trees onsite, we're improving the quality of life for citizens. So when we hold outreach meetings, we're helping to provide transparency in the process, which equates to public trust. So all of this makes us part of something larger and more meaningful, and gives our team a stronger sense of purpose in the organization.

Joe Supervielle: Right. So you in the leadership role within the growth management team, kind of helping your staff see the bigger picture and the impact on the public, is that kind of how you develop that mindset among staff?

Karen Jumonville: I think so. I mean, I think showing that they're connected to something larger and a broader goal, it certainly makes it more fun and gives us a sense of purpose in our jobs.

Joe Supervielle: So, it sounds like it's going well. You've given a few examples on what's worked well. Has anything been a little bit difficult? Were there any kind of speed bumps or hurdles out of the gates that you kind of learned from early on that maybe didn't go so smoothly?

Karen Jumonville: Yes, I would say what we've gotten a lot better at is meaningful public outreach, I would say, 12 years ago, we weren't as good at outreach, and we would do things like our formal advertising requirements for projects that we have to do by law. But that doesn't always equate to meaningful public outreach, so we wouldn't have a feel for whether a project or code changes were supported by people until we got to the commission meeting.

And that's one of the worst things that can happen, is getting in front of elected officials and having citizens flood the chambers in opposition to what you're doing. So we become really proactive in that area. We hold community meetings with neighborhood and business groups all the time, and we try to do it at the earliest possible stage of a project so that we can resolve any issues before it gets to the elected officials.

I think the city overall is excellent at this. We do this across departmental lines, we even have a division in the parks and rec department. It's in our neighborhood affairs division, and they go to homeowners association meetings, and they let people know what's going on across the city as a whole. So there's a lot of information sharing, and it helps to breed more trust in government. So I think that's an area where we've learned from mistakes in the past and gotten much better.

Joe Supervielle: Right. So how have you measured success overall, like bigger picture? And can you just give an example or two of your biggest wins?

Karen Jumonville: Sure. Well, we have qualitative and quantitative measures, we have a number of performance reports where we measure our review times, we have a residential guarantee program. That's one of our big wins that was adopted by the City Commission in about 2012. And we turn our single family permits around within seven working days, and then five days for a resubmittal. It's a program that's popular with the development community. If we don't meet those timeframes, we have to provide their money back.

Joe Supervielle: Oh, wow. There you go. Yeah, that's why they like it. Either you put something around or their money back. Yeah, win-win.

Karen Jumonville: Exactly. But also, it's not just about the numbers. I mean, we look at our performance measures, and we need to stay on top of them. But also just getting positive feedback through surveys, and anecdotally, is very important. I mean, we can be 100% on our performance measures and review time, but if you get people constantly go into the commission meetings or the city manager with complaints, then we're doing something wrong.

We try to look at it holistically. Another recent win, I'd say, is we were approached about a year and a half ago by some citizens who felt that the kind of development we were getting around the edges of existing single family neighborhoods wasn't compatible. So we did some research into best practices and identified some areas where we thought we could probably improve, but we did an extensive public outreach effort. We had 13 meetings with neighborhood groups, and then another six meetings with business interests. Lots of give and take, the ordinance was amended and reshaped after every meeting to address some of the needs that were identified by the neighbors and the business groups.

In the end, when we brought it to the City Commission, 34 out of 35 standards were supported by both groups. So that was a big win for the city.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, an example of, it's not just about putting these ideas on paper or having a plan, you got to do the hard work and the legwork to get in front of the citizens, to get in front of the businesses, to get the real input and then go from there. So it was just a magic solution, but the hard work and the practical things you can do to make it happen.

Karen Jumonville: Right.

Joe Supervielle: Well, thanks for your time today, Miss Jumonville. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the bigger picture of one team identity there with the city and how it's helping the citizens. Thank you.

Karen Jumonville: It's my pleasure. Thank you.

Joe Supervielle: Now we welcome in Angela Baldwin, Chief Transit Officer of Tallahassee, thanks for joining us.

Angela Baldwin: Thank you for having me.

Joe Supervielle: Jumping right into that topic of one team identity, I think you have the advantage of seeing how all these other departments work. You've been around in different roles and kind of understand different responsibilities. So when the initiative or program, when it first started, what was your reaction? What did you think about it given your experience in different roles? What did you think? How can it help?

Angela Baldwin:

Throughout my time at the city, I've seen many administrations, and different management styles, and philosophies. And when I started here at StarMetro, we were very much in that silo mentality. And all areas were pretty much working independently, some more than others. And there was little cross communication or integration of services, and following the leadership of our city manager, and recognizing this as a deficiency, our team worked to change all of that, because we realized that it hurts StarMetro, and not only StarMetro–it hurts our public facing mission. And we're not only essential services–we are one of the few frontline customer-facing, seven-days-a-week departments in the city. So that one team concept is very important.

Joe Supervielle: Right, because it can, maybe at first glance sound like an internal thing. This is just an HR project or employee to employee, but ultimately the goal is to get better service for the public. And you said, your transit department, obviously is front-facing every single day. The function or the setup in the background or how different departments work together, ultimately, the goal is to help that.

So how was it implemented? It sounded like you didn't really need to be convinced or the whole concept of buy-in, it sounds like you already knew that it was really needed. So just talk to us about the early days. What were the early results? Was there buy-in from your staff? Did you have to kind of relay the message from executive leadership and the city manager down to your staff? So how did they take it? What were your first steps to get the program moving?

Angela Baldwin: Of course, you have to believe in it. And I believed in that mission. Providing that quality service to our citizens and not just to ... It's not about hierarchy, or status, or a particular department, it's just genuinely caring about the people and how to best serve them. And being in silos, that hurts employees’ efficiency and effectiveness, and mostly, it hurts, as you mentioned, the customers in the public that we serve.

And our operators there, they are a unique set of individuals, they are frontline ambassadors, they answer phones ... Answer questions, I'm sorry. And they distribute information to hundreds of people throughout the day. And it's important that they are part of the city communication streamline, and somewhat feel the ownership and connectivity of all of the City of Tallahassee. And so, of course, yes, change is difficult for some, and your communication is important.

So, of course, getting the message from our leadership and disseminating it to our leadership team, and ensuring that we not only just talk about it one time. We have to be consistent; you have to stay the course, you have to tell employees what's expected, and set them on a plan for moving forward. And just being consistent in your efforts. It's not a one-time shot, you have to walk it, not just talk it. You have to lay out the expectations, not just one time, you have to live it and breathe those expectations all the time, in everything you do, and demonstrating the importance from top down, and just being consistent, being consistent in your action.

Joe Supervielle: So not just the what but the how, and the why is important for the employees to actually understand what are the steps? Or what are my metrics to achieve this? And then to get their buy-in, explain the why, and not just a generic, "Well, because it will help and they will help the public," the actual, what it means for their individual roles, which could vary, it seems to me, by department or person. So that's kind of your job as the leader there.

Angela Baldwin: Yes.

Joe Supervielle: So how was it actually implemented? Were there goals broken down? Or when you say it's kind of abstract thing sometimes, but were there tangible, measurable metrics on maybe a yearly or even quarterly basis? How did you go about implementing the specific steps?

Angela Baldwin: The first year here at StarMetro was my opportunity to learn. You have to know your team, you have to know your team, you have to know your audience, you have to know what works and what doesn't work. And for one, telling employees what they're doing wrong, doesn't work well. You have to show them how to do it right, set those expectations that, "We're going to implement this positive culture," and set these expectations.

We developed a mission, vision, values for the department that pretty much they are associated with the city's mission, vision, values, and that strategic plan that the city has created. And I mean, we really just hit hard on having those routine meetings with our employees, those all hands meetings where we're pretty much saying the same thing. It's just repetitive. We're consistent in what we say. Our managers, they're consistent when they have their biweekly meetings with their employees.

It's just consistent messaging across the board, that was important here because communication was lacking. And so the important part was the communication with employees, constantly letting them hear what the expectations are and what those goals are that we're trying to achieve.

Joe Supervielle: So how has the one team approach helped, specifically your department? Have you seen any positive change yet? It's maybe a little early on, but what's been the impact so far?

Angela Baldwin: So our department is now able to work with various departments in planning, roads, houses, land development, economic development, all other areas that intersect with public transportation. And our role as a public transportation agency isn't just picking up person, dropping them off, back and forth, it's to connect people, bring people to their jobs, health care, education, food, and when there are emergencies to save shelters.

And so being involved with other entities of the city and knowing how we can assist before an event or an issue arises, gives us the tools to provide the most comprehensive and effective customer service that we could possibly offer. And in our team of diverse employees, especially our StarMetro leadership team, we have a breadth of experience, a breadth of experience that comes in handy when it's time to attack a problem or a situation head on, such as COVID. And making sure our core mission to provide that safe transportation no matter what the exterior force is.

And during the last few years, we've made some major accomplishments over the last couple of years. Our fleet management, our resource management and grants department, and others to help us become the leader in sustainable public transportation in the Southeast. So currently, our fleet is a third non-emission vehicles. And we're leading the way in converting all of our fleet to 100% non-emission by 2035. So that one team approach is definitely coming in handy with our everything.

Joe Supervielle: And you said too, the transit, people might just think, "Oh, that's a bus, or that's a metro, or subway," or whatever it might be. But you said all these other departments, they might have specific responsibilities and missions, and it takes the support or the execution on your end to actually get it done. And that's where things are siloed, it's either not going to work or it's going to be a mess, and not very efficient. So, people need to be talking to each other communicating, understanding expectations, and working together. It looks like that would be one of the prime examples, is your department working with others.

Angela Baldwin: Yes, along with working with our community partners, within the city as well, such as housing and community resilience, we work together to determine the best way to serve our areas, human service agencies, and the transportation needs of their population. So we work together to provide a program that not only empower the agency to monitor their clients travel, but allow StarMetro better tracking services to streamline services and track the data. And that was very important for that population.

Joe Supervielle: Were there any false starts, or missteps, or hurdles? None of these plans go exactly smoothly, so were there any kind of difficulties that your team or even other teams as you worked together with different departments figured out how to get through it? You said it earlier that communication is just the big thing and needs to be repeated as it's not a one-time shot. But for audience who are listening, who might have had similar attempts or initiatives, directives from the top, but maybe it's not going so well, can you share your experience?

It doesn't necessarily always go smoothly, but you got to keep at it and keep working towards it, because eventually it'll pay off.

Angela Baldwin: Sure, just change is difficult for some, being patient is very important. Things don't happen overnight, so patience is going to be a key. Patient in communicating and patient to helping others understand, and understanding what they don't understand. People don't know what they don't know. And articulating what the goal is, trying to establish trust.

Trusting each other in what we're doing, to establishing and establishing a positive culture. And for me, working to achieve goals and objectives of the city and when trust is present, positive culture and you get employee satisfaction, and all this together leads to developing good relationships with our customers. It's a win-win. It's a win-win.

Joe Supervielle: And that goes back to the one team, you have your job, I have my job, but we can help each other do it effectively. And then the greater good, which can come across like a cliche, maybe, but that greater good can be reached a little more quickly. And it's maybe not necessarily telling other people what to do, but just communicate what needs to get done as a whole. So the project or the objectives can move forward.

Angela Baldwin: That's correct. And understanding what the goal is, and explaining the why. Why we're doing what we're doing, what the purpose is what we're doing.

Joe Supervielle: Yep, the why is always needed, otherwise, the buy-in is not going to happen. And at best, you're going to get kind of half results or mediocre results. So we appreciate your time today. Thanks for sharing some insight on the transit department, and your efforts as a whole to contribute to Tallahassee's one team identity. Thank you.

Angela Baldwin: Thank you.

Joe Supervielle: With us now is Jeff Shepard, Director of Fleet Management for Tallahassee, Florida. Thanks for joining us today.

Jeff Shepard: Thank you, Joe. Good afternoon.

Joe Supervielle: We've talked to a few others today already about one team identity, and I just wanted to get your take as the fleet manager there. Just talk to us a little bit about where the department was a decade or so ago, and some of the bigger changes that have happened since and how this kind of mindset of one team identity has helped.

Jeff Shepard: Yeah, we're kind of a separate department from everybody communicated them in their department. And then when we moved to the one team as StarMetro, the transit had its own garage, we had our own garages. And we were asked to merge two garages. And it's been a big challenge and a big change, but it's been great for the whole organization.

I think it is working out great, the transit's moving to the electric buses. So we work hand in hand with the operations over there to try to get all the integral parts and the funding for the transit electric buses, and then the power because we're going to have to get in to the transit yard to charge the buses. But then, we work hand in hand with the electric department that's part of the city too, so they come in, bring their engineers in, and we all work together with everybody.

It really makes it a lot easier for everybody to be able to work together. The budget office now, they work hand in hand with us, with finding funding for whatever needs. I think it has really improved our city a lot.

Joe Supervielle: That's good to hear. And it seems like the fleet management, obviously, you guys are supplying vehicles to maybe every single one of them, but definitely most of them, all these different departments have their own tasks and their own vehicle. So has the added communication, and just the fundamental mindset of one team identity, has that just made you and your team's day-to-day job easier?

Jeff Shepard: It does, it makes it easier. Sometimes it makes things difficult, but like when we need a new bucket truck, the electric department brings their bucket truck committee, and they meet with our guys here at fleet, they sit down and they demo, and they look at specifications on the trucks and see what best fits them, and what's the best for us that we can keep operational form too, because we got to look at lifecycle costs, because we keep a lot of these trucks for 10 to 15, some of to 20 years.

So, you've got to have a good product with a good product support and input from the department, because if we just buy them something that they don't need and put it out there, it's just not sustainable to operate.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, just wasted money at that point, so like communication on, even if you have to compromise or meet some middle ground based on budget, and need, and what's available, it seems like that all goes ... It's got to happen either way, so it's smoother if there's an emphasis on getting that communication out there ahead of time instead of waiting until something goes wrong.

Jeff Shepard: Correct. Yeah. Because these vehicles are highly complex now, it takes a lot of microprocessors, and computers, and miles of wire, and hydraulics. And so when you buy it, it's a big investment, and it's a long-term investment and we need something that's safe for the operators. And in certain cases, it's the most fuel efficient. You got to weigh that in too.

We've gone into this electrification that we're going into combat to climate change, when we need to own our light-duty fleet, when we buy the light-duty electric cars, we move over to, we call them electric apartments. I need to put so many chargers for this department here to run their electric car. So everybody just gets together and if it weren't for that, it would be a lot tougher.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, trying to preempt some of those confusions or contradicting goals, there's probably easier on the front end than trying to untangle it after the fact.

Jeff Shepard: Correct. Yes.

Joe Supervielle: So as the leader of that department, how did you transfer the directive from city management and the city manager himself to your staff? Was there pushback? Were there any challenges there? Or did everyone just buy-in right away? How did it go when it first started?

Jeff Shepard: There was resistance on some of it. And we just had to just keep making changes and minor changes along the way until everybody ... The main thing is to have meetings, and to bring everybody involved, not just the management team here, but every employee, you need to split them up in different groups and say, "Hey, here's a project to work on, here's to the goal, here's the city's strategic plan, and this is why we do it. And for everything we do is to support department so they can support the citizens."

When a guy has got to go out in a power truck in a storm and fix the power up, he needs a good truck to go. And our people need to know that that's what they're there for. Our vehicles travel over a million miles a month here within the city.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, that's come up in our earlier conversations, the why. Making sure the why is communicated, so other staff, not just for motivation, but it kind of moves it from just doing a function to understanding why it's important, and then, hopefully, becomes a little bit more effective.

Jeff Shepard: Yeah, it relates to their job, where if they don't know why they're doing it, they're not going to have any passion or anything in the game. You can't just have them come here to work at easy eight hour day and go home with a blank slate. When a storm comes, you got to tell them off, "Hey, we got to run a night shift, a day shift, we got to support a mutual aid." And we have a team now that just everybody jumps in and willing to do anything, just whatever it takes.

Joe Supervielle: Yep. And it's not just about the truck or whatever it is, it's about what problem it's solving for the public. You already gave a few examples, so ultimately, that's what it's really all about. So how are you measuring success? It's tough, people talk about metrics, you might have some for your department specifically, but how are you measuring success with the one team identity in general? How successful do you think it's been so far? And how do you know?

Jeff Shepard: Well, we know from the customers are happy, which is all departments. When we get good feedback, we do surveys, we ask for feedback, we ask for criticism, "Y'all tell us what can we do better to serve you?" And like I say, from the mechanics in the shop, "Go out and ride with this guy, see what he's got to go through. Go out and know he had to do all that, that's why he needs this to do this." And it just trickles down, and we started applying for awards of some of our strategic measures was to become a top 100 fleet.

And the past two years, we've been in the top 20 in the best 100 fleets, we've been in the top 50 leading fleets, and in the top 20 Green fleets. So to go after these awards, we bring everybody in to have input, from the supervisors to the mechanics, people from different garages, they all come and participate in this stuff, and it helps them see why the overall goal is and why you do this, is to definitely better yourself. I mean, it's changing every day and the whole world's changing, the vehicle market is changing. Everything changes, we got to keep changing with it.

Joe Supervielle: Yeah, I was going to ask you about what the big wins are, but you just said that it's not even about the award, or the recognition. But you got that for a reason, because the fleet is that good. So congratulations on the multiple years of that, that kind of shows what can be accomplished once the plan is put in place but more so people like you and your staff actually making it happen. So congratulations on that.

Jeff Shepard: Yeah, and it's just a joy to work with all the guys in it, not just one. When you bring people in from different areas, they don't see what everybody else is doing unless they work together. And once they see, it just makes it so much easier, which is saying, it all trickles down from that one team environment.

Joe Supervielle: Jeff, can you tell us a little bit about how the city manager and the leadership team in general helped, not only you and your department, but the entire city with this initiative? What kind of leadership did they show? How did they set you guys up for success?

Jeff Shepard: Well, the leadership team, the manager's office, my boss, assistant city manager, he came out and did workdays with our guy, he come into shops and work on equipment, and sees what's really going on, where the rubber hits the road here at fleet. So he knows what's going on. And that goes a long way when a guy sitting there and somebody from the leadership team comes in and works with him to see what he's doing. I don't know if that's ever been done around here before.

And the guy has just stopped for a moment and said, "Nobody comes to see us, we're just fixing vehicles, and they don't want to see us unless something go wrong." And so for somebody just to come and see what we're doing, what we're going on and work hand in hand with them, that was just highly impressive. And it impressed all the guys. And I was impressed with it also. And they all send people from the strategic plan down to work with us, so they'll know what we're doing in case we need to pivot or move the strategic plan in our area or someone else's area.

Joe Supervielle: Right. It's helpful when managers and their leadership team, it's more than just kind of putting a plan and a directive in place and expecting people to know exactly what to do or follow through, actually showing up and listening instead of just talking, I guess is one way to phrase it. So I'm glad it's going that way in Tallahassee, good to hear that the managers are helping the different department heads get their projects done.

Well, Jeff, thanks for your time today. I appreciate it. Director of Fleet Management on insights for your department and how it fits into Tallahassee is bigger goal of one team identity. Thanks for joining us today.

Jeff Shepard: Thank you.

Guest Information

Reese Goad, City Manager, Tallahassee, Florida

Angela Baldwin, Chief Transit Officer, Tallahassee, Florida

Karen Jumonville, Director of Growth Management, Tallahassee, Florida

Jeff Shepard, Director of Fleet Management, Tallahassee, Florida

Episode Notes

Tallahassee (FL) City Manager Reese Goad and his senior city staff discuss how shifting from siloed departments to a one team identity helped the entire city's workforce and ultimately delivers better service for residents.

Resources

City of Tallahassee Government Website

Advertisement