Meet City Administrator John Benson
Learn some words of wisdom from City Administrator John Benson of City of Marshfield, MO on this episode of our special Gov Gab podcast series.
That's a fundamental part of planning is you do get input, identify the needs of the community, from the residents. And that's what we've done and it's ingrained into the, into really a process that drives what the city does. And the direction we're going is driven by, ultimately by our residents.
Welcome, everyone, to another episode of the Gov Gob radio podcast. I'm your host Brian Ondrako. Thanks for being a part of another episode. And excited to introduce our first city administrator into the mix here on the podcast, where we get to sit down with City Administrator Jon Benson from Marshfield, Missouri. It's a small community just outside Springfield, Missouri and get an opportunity to chat with John about, you know, his career and how he started out in planning and trying to, you know, kind of growing communities from that standpoint, and then his transition into being a city administrator at Marshfield. Really cool conversation, a lot of great insight from John, about his journey, and some of the things that he deals with on a day-to-day basis working with citizens, working with the mayor and the board of aldermen, etc. So I think you guys will really enjoy this episode in our wide ranging conversation with Jon Benson. So without further ado, let's jump into our conversation today with City Administrator Jon Benson.
Jon, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining today.
Thanks for having me on. Glad to be here.
Well, so I'm excited to talk to you, you know, over these first few episodes of the Gov Gab podcast I talked with, you know, mayors across the country. And obviously it's a little different animal there were they have other full-time jobs. And obviously it's in elected position. I really want to talk with some city administrator, city managers across the country as well and really see that other dynamic, you know, the other side of the house where, you know, this is something you've obviously, with your career have grown into this position. So I want to take a for I always like to take a step back, I guess, you know, from a background standpoint. And understand, do you remember back when you were kind of going into your college. I know you went to Iowa State, and kind of got your bachelor of science in community and gegional planning? You remember why you did that? Was there something that intrigued you back in that time that you want to go in and kind of work in that kind of work in that part, I guess for a career? I'm curious if you start there, and then we'll kind of bring it up to present day?
Sure. Yeah, back when coming out of high school. And I went to junior college, actually, before I went to Iowa State, but kind of figure out what I wanted to do. And I was always interested in in the design, and that migrated from specific building design like architecture to broadening that out to community community design on a broader level, is what more intrigued me. And so that's what led me to I stayed with their community and regional planning program there, which community planning and design in that regard, or in that context. So also, like I lived 45 minutes from Ames, Iowa at the time. So obviously, that was kind of in my backyard and to go to school there.
What was it some of you know, obviously, in some of your earlier positions as like planners, as some different, you know, cities and counties and what have you? What were some of the things that you kind of learned early on about government or local government that intrigued you maybe it was some things that surprised you as well, but kind of intrigued you to keep going with that.
When I started out in the in the along that line, my first internship, actually, if I was still in school was with the Regional Planning Commission in central Iowa and how cities do what they do, I guess, was the eye opening and it in an academic sense and class setting you learn? You learn things of processes? And the whys, if you will, why do we do that? Or why does the city do this or that. But in the internship, and even in my first job, out of college working for that same Regional Planning Commission, was the the level of detail that putting in a sewer line to to provide better services or accommodate accommodate growth for a community isn't is not as easy as well, let's just go to the trends and put it in the pipe and connect, you know, connected all together. And there's a lot of behind the scenes of the finance into that to the engineering and design and and what is the right place or direction to account for as far as growth goes to accommodating future growth? Where should that growth occur in a business sense of operating a city as opposed to what other interests or other purposes or factors of how to where that growth should occur, or what's most economical, I guess, is what I'm trying to get across.
So that behind the scenes input or decision-making process that goes into things before the actual construction of whether it be a sewer line, a swimming pool, a street, things like that. The other part of it, I think, is often overlooked, even to this day, I think over the last I'm going to say 10 years, maybe 20 years, I think it's becoming more and more evident to the public is the maintenance cost of maintaining the infrastructure, whether that be a lot of times in the news, you hear about bridges and state highway bridges that are needing to be replaced, and the funding is not there to replace those because of one all the bridges in this nation highway system was constructed in a relatively tight timeframe of a few decades. And now those bridges are wearing out. And the same applies to sewer lines, water lines, paving streets, how long you resurface or repaved a street and that asphalt hopefully last 20 years or maybe a little longer. And sometimes it doesn't last that long. And so how do you how does the city come up with a funding to pay for that next resurfacing or the maintenance or replacing, how long do sewer pipes or water pipes last before they need to be replaced or upgraded to a different material where we experiencing we are experiencing that now with what used to be a standard type of pipe of cast iron pipe he was very common. Nowadays cast iron pipe, it holds up over time. But the chemistry side of things the cast iron interacts with the chemicals in the water, the chlorine and other things that causes discoloration or other issues with the pipes where PVC-type piping doesn't do that. And so you know, it's a learning curve, learning what used to be current technologies replaced with new technology in the sense of the type of pipe material. So there's a lot of behind the scenes, things that are learned, like any any profession, but also just learning experience, real life experience of learning as a you don't you just learn on the job to some degree as technology changes as well.
Yeah, I mean, that's something new, I didn't, I didn't realize there was some challenges with that. So you taught me something today? Um, what is the I'm just curious, I guess my my mind running what is like a general, like you're talking about changing the piping? What's the time commitment to that? Like, how long does that take, like, you know, for your city? How long would that take to replace all the pipes in the city?
I don't have a definitive number to give you. But what drives that answer? Or to get to that answer is all driven by how much funding, how many, how much how many dollars as a city have to put towards things like that versus other needs, that those dollars are competing against in the community, and where does the replacing the pipe prioritization wise, fit within the community as a need. In our case, we in the last two years, we've replaced or last year, and by the end of this year, we I should say, we will have replaced about 4000 linear feet of old cast iron pipe. So what we're doing is about two to maybe 3000 linear feet of cast iron pipe a year ago now get replaced by our crews, and that we're doing that with in house, so to speak with our own own staff, as opposed to contracting out with a contractor to come in and do that. And, and the reason being is we can do it more cheaply with our own staff, because we don't have to pay the labor costs and the equipment costs above beyond what we currently have staffing wise, of course, we have to balance that with our what what else, our staff needs to be doing workload wise and in what the equipment needed for that. So that's why we're just taking a on an annual basis, an incremental approach to that. And that's part of the factoring into that is, I don't I don't recall exactly how many linear feet of cast iron pipe we need to replace ultimately, but that factors into what percentage of cast iron pipe of our whole system is. So where is it is depends ultimately, the answer your question, it depends on the revenues. The city has to put towards things like that. In this case, we're talking about replacing cast iron pipe for water system versus using those dollars for other things.
Until obviously, those are a lot of the tough decisions. And as a city administrator, you got to be a part of and help make. When did that change? I'm curious in your mind of going from saying, Hey, I'm a planner, I'm a senior planner, director of development doing some of these things around that to saying, hey, I want to be a city administrator. That was there something I was eight years ago when did that kind of take for my guests or is that was that the always the plan for you?
No, it was not definitely was not always the plan for me. Actually, it's a, growing up, or I shouldn't say growing up in high school into college, kind of once I figured out what the career path or area of interest that I wanted to get into. It was from being a I want to be a city planner, and achieve that, so to speak, and was a city planner. And then as I got more experience and was exposed to more aspects of, of what a city planner does are the different things they city planner can do different roles in different cities. In a smaller community, the city planner is more of a generalist in the sense that they'll wear multiple hats in the planning field of could be developed revealing development plans to land use applications to In my case. I was even involved early on in my career, getting to do residential building inspections, and some commercial building and inspections. To my first job out of college for the Regional Planning Commission, I did a lot of grant writing for community development block grants and state grant programs, to Transit Administration, lot of different ways of city planning or planner can get involved in areas they can get involved in.
What I realized in my first job out of college was I really did not want. I did not enjoy doing grant writing every day, day to day, every week, so to speak, and their cycles to that. Nor did I really enjoy just doing Transit Administration, not diminishing the fact and the need for those things. It's just that was not my cup of tea.
And I went, I actually left that job to for an opportunity with the city into the morning metro area, doing the development or review land use applications. That's where the bill and inspections got exposure to that. And then from there, became applied and became a Community Development Director for a county in the Kansas City area took on more responsibilities, still the development review and those there are real. And interestingly, while that first job out of college and even my internship of doing grant writing, Transit Administration wasn't really my cup of tea. Later in my career, I realized the experience I got from doing those things, paid major dividends for me because it gave me a knowledge level to draw from not not just how to write a grant or that but but the benefits and the different avenues of grant funding available out there that I'm able to draw from even to this day, even in on Transit Administration. in Marshfield, which is a rural community of approximately 7,200 people we have transit needs, but at our population size, we're not big enough where it's economical to or feasible to really run a transit system. And so we have to get creative, and partner with the spring in the Springfield, Missouri metro area. And we're still work to kind of work through that, that issue in that need. But I'm able to draw from that Transit Administration experience in my very first job years ago. So that's one of the takeaways and I guess, for listeners out there, depending on their world they are in their career, but particularly younger, younger people starting out careers is you may not like doing something or may not be something you're really passionate about. But don't discount that experience. Because down the road that can come back and be very beneficial to you where you do that does tie directly into your passion, whatever that may be.
Now that's great advice. And I'm curious, when obviously, when you know, at Marshfield for a few years now, what's the, I guess what is one thing you wish you knew, prior to coming in there that you may be learned over the last few years that you wish you kind of knew early on is there one thing you can remember that, you know, would have been nice or beneficial to have known?
One, not one thing. There's a lot of things. I guess a couple things that just off the cuff come to mind are in as a city administrator, at least in my experience, the when I was a city planner. As I mentioned earlier, I was more of a generalist when I say that, but yet it was still relatively around planning, city planning. And as a city administrator, you're now you're excited your city planning overseeing that and not that I'm this is a double-edged sword or kind of a dichotomy of overseeing that does planning but also the public works, the water the sewer the streets, to we have a fire department to general administration of the city hall or city government, to finance department, things like that. Now, having said that, there I have people in Marshfield that are department heads, and superintendents and each of those areas that they're they're involved in the day to day down in the weeds, so to speak. But as a city administrator, I I support those individuals and oversee and make sure we're all working in a coordinated fashion.
As a city administrator, it's, you get pulled in a lot of different directions. Because for that reason, there's just you're overseeing the entire organization, in essence, as opposed to as a planner, with me, I was in one area or one department and or department head of one specific area. And so not that that was new, it was just the degree to which that you get pulled is greater than what I anticipated.
In a way, it goes back to being a generalist where and I'd like to circle back to kind of talk about the planner from that perspective of a generalist planner, if your city planning or the other thing is if you're in a larger community, particularly larger city, you generally they have multiple planners. And so a planner will be involved specifically for just development or review or just for grant writing or just for administration, they don't get exposed to all of those things. And so, in my experience, in my career, I much preferred walking workings rather for the smaller community because I got exposure to a lot more things, and learned a lot more things as a result of that. And that's just for my personality makeup. Now others may may not like that they may want to just specialize into a specific area. And that's, and that's, that's okay. And that's good to know what what their interest area or where their interests lie in that regard. As a city, bringing that forward to city administrator.
The generalist in a sense makes that transition of overseeing multiple departments and a little bit easier for me at least, I think I can draw from that.
Backing up to a question you asked me on how did I transition or what led me from being a planning background community development background to sit in administration, and how what caused that is, ironically, I missed out on the job opportunity I was I applied for community, a department head level community development director position was not so I was an internal candidate was not selected, an external candidate was selected.
After you get past the emotional part of disappointment of not being selected. And I had the opportunity to learn from the person that was selected as well as the city administrator that was there. And it was understood that the reasons wasn't selected, were valid, the person that was selected brought a different skill set to the table, and actually helped me that did a better job, I think, then what I would have done, had I been selected based on what the issues confronting the city became, they were better set up to deal with those what their backgrounds and say what I would have been there, not that I couldn't have dealt with him, but just they dealt with they were able to deal with them, I sent easier method them and say I would have, but I learned from that.
And one of the things I learned was, or took from that experience was I went back to school to get my masters in public administration to broaden my knowledge I, I realized I had kind of not that you can't continually learn and you never learn everything there is to learn. But I had, I had kind of plateaued out I think, and it made me realize that and so I went back to school as a new challenge got my masters in public administration. And when I was in that program, working on that degree, that's where I got I was exposed to public administration at a city administrator level. And that had not even been on my radar of interest area before besides new other position, but I didn't, wasn't something that really intrigued me. But as I went through the master's program in public administration, it is broaden my horizons and taught me some new things. And that's what led me down the path of, of public administrators, it being becoming a city administrator and enticed me to start looking at that as a career, career path or part of my career path.
Having said that, I also recognize this benefit administrator, the type of community I wanted to work in versus type of community, I didn't want to and what I mean by that is a because of my planning background, I wanted to be able to draw from that experience. And so a community that has facing growth issues or development issues, things like that, it was more of interest to me than say a community that didn't have those issues are what we're not confronting those issues. So and that's just the personal satisfaction and the job itself.
Is there is there one thing like I'm just like, a citizen would be surprised. So obviously, you have a lot of different things you're doing on a day to day basis, right? And kind of a we're seeing the city of large but is there something like something that you have to do that's like some oddball task or something that someone would be surprised that a city administrator has to do or you have to specifically do and in Marshfield? I'm just curious if there's anything.
I don't, nothing that comes to mind, I guess. And I and I guess the reason I'm saying it that way is my my, how I how I'm programmed mentally I guess is I view it as a city is here to serve our residents. And I'm not saying that just the sound cliche about it, but obviously a city is here to serve their residents but everything I do I kind of take it from that that approach or mindset. I guess maybe to your question of maybe something that may surprises I had a resident but in this is this goes actually beyond city government standards city or typical city government, I guess, but resident the ice cream, man, the ice cream truck, then drives around playing the music and, and the ice cream truck never went down the street down the street and they had little kids and they they asked me not that they were domain in the city do something about it. It wasn't that way at all. But but it's one of my son that I take satisfaction and a little thing that makes it big or had a big impact on one household at least.
They were just saying the ice cream man never comes down our street because we're living with a dead end street and, and they have little two little girls. And so I just happened to the ice cream man happened to go down my street where I lived. And so I knew I knew I would see them. I didn't know them, but I saw. And so I stopped in one day when they were coming down the street. A few days after I heard this and asked him if they could drive down the street. And he's like, sure. And and they did. And that was to this day, I see that those girls and they will talk about that. And that was that was over a year and a half ago. So it's it's little it's a little things that make can make a big impact. And sometimes it's defined the it's not always the big projects are the big flashy things that are high visibility that have a big impact. It's the little things in life to that can be just as bad to kill resident.
You know, and that's a really cool story there. I'm curious how you incoming in obviously, and again, being a planner, I'm sure you you got involved with working with mayor's or the council or anything like that. How does that dynamic work with with you guys currently? Was that a new challenge for you? Is that something is it pretty seamless for the most part, or can you tell us a little bit about you know, how do you move the city forward by kind of working with those other you know, partners in the city, the mayor, the the the council, etc.
Sure. So in our case here in Marshfield the mayor, he's pretty active in not the day-to-day city business operations. But he's showed he's more active than just showing up at a Board of Aldermen meeting a couple times a month. He's between meetings.
Usually, at least every other day. He and I are texting or talking on the phone just with updates, status of things that are going on. To a lesser degree but similar with with the political Board of Aldermen though that communication with the Board of Aldermen typically comes through after twice a month at our, at their Board of Aldermen meetings. But the mayor is much more has to a degree hands on. And again, not down to the daily operational side of things, things but more on the projects, what's the status, our things progressing on different different things that are going on. And so we have a, we and I have a good communication channel, either texting phone and things like that. Also, he has he works a four day week. So on his day off, he's typically comes in the city hall and we'll we'll meet and go over different things, meetings on different topics or issues as we need to. And so he cuts out time of his schedule on those days to meet meet with me or I'll reach out to him and set up a time a meeting for on a topic.
The outside or beyond the governing body. When I was hired the Board of Aldermen here one of the things they wanted in the city administrator position was integration into the community or involvement, community involvement. And how I do that is I'm a member of a local Rotary Club for instance, I also at times will attend other the corners club meetings or Optimist Club meeting and things like that. We have a nonprofit organization here in town known as Grow Marshfield that, I sit on the board of along with the mayor and others in the community that sit on that board. And so that's the coordination and then probably underlying all of that. Particular to Marshfield is before I was here working for Marshfield, the community had gone through what we call our vision, community vision casting process, and had a consultant come in, met with different segments of our community of rest of resonance and non residents that people that work in the area and in got their input and just to ask some real fundamental questions or basic questions is, what are they what would they like to see what are their needs, what are their issues, that they identify those private and those issues were all identified and then prioritized by those participants. And that's the driver for what we for projects that we are dealing in this community moving the community forward in the way that the residents would like to. And we that was in that originally was done in 2014. Last spring and are in the spring of 2018. We bought that same consultant back did that same exact process. But we learned from the 2014. We had underrepresented segments of our community that had not not on to intentionally but just unintentionally, have not had not we have not heard from him or to agree with we felt the need to seniors, persons with disabilities, lower that percentage of our community that's lower income households, we did not connect with those residents in those areas. And so we made a pointed effort to reach out to we went to the senior center on a luncheon there.
And we heard from 30 to 40 seniors that we met with or I say we are consultant, she could myself and the mayor out of the building so they can talk freely and not be felt like the city was hovering over listening. And it was all done anonymously is on their input, which we went to the sheltered workshop or she did that was to get input from this, folks with disabilities we had start and Ozark Area Community Action Agency we met, we went with they helped us helped some meetings where for people that are bought their clientele met with us for that that gave us input from the some folks that are a segment of our population of lower income households. And so along with with teachers, realtors, the business community, parents, students, high school students, other segments as well. And that in that vision casting process, and that is really a foundational aspect to this community, and has resulted in very strong partnerships between not with the city, the Chamber of Commerce, or a county seat, our county commission, we work very closely with the school district and the Rotary Club organizations that it's ingrained in this community of the partnership mentality and kind of a cultural aspect. And, again, going back to my my planning background, that's, that's a fundamental part of planning is you get input, identify the needs of the communities from the residents, and that's what we've done. And it's ingrained in the into really a process that drives what the city does. And the direction we're going is driven by ultimately by our residents.
Yeah, that's right line, I wanted to kind of ask him that point, then. What do you foresee and maybe it was with the study you guys had? or something else at what do you foresee is the biggest challenge that cities you know, anticipating the next few years? And maybe what measures are you trying to take take a guess get ahead of it.
So the vision casting, we're we are in the latter stages of updating, developing and getting ready to adopt what we call our growth plan. The city's portion of that growth plan will it will become our comprehensive plan for Grow Marshfield, which is our economic development entity, it will be the driver or a strategic plan, if you will, for grow Marshfield. We're partnering with the Chamber's involved with that the Marshall development languages, another nonprofit entity here in town that is involved with economic development efforts. They have input and naval, we're hoping they will ultimately adopted as well.
It's kind of a guiding document that overarching multiple organizations from a strategic planning approach. Implementing that plan will become, I think, a challenge. And when you get into implementation, I think funding will become always becomes an issue. And so finding that funding and the prioritization of that, or what's needed to implement that plan, and I made, I don't want to mislead that the growth, the vision casting has been that plan, what we're doing, in essence is building on to that vision casting process and integrating it into or that input into integrating it into other ways of that will drive what we do. And so it's really some communities work from a top down process. And I don't mean that in a negative, it's just it is a byproduct of who's elected to different offices or who the chamber president is or the chamber board. Those are the decision makers. In our case, that vision casting and that community input is really it's a grassroots effort that's drawing it. So it's a it's a bottom up process that ultimately we're we have in place and we're strengthening by in our intent is to strengthen that through the growth plan.
And so going back to a previous question of that's the reason the Board of Aldermen, excuse me when, when I was interviewing for this job, and ultimately hired wanted, one of their key aspects was community involvement, because to to partner, you have to communicate continually and work with other entities in the community. And that's that vision casting is such that direction, and then it's about partnering and community communication with those other entities and working together in a in a coordinated fashion. And one of the things this governing body and Marshfield and I've talked about told the mayor this is very adept at consensus building. We don't, our discovering bodyworks, moves forward on things from a consensus building standpoint, if someone's uncomfortable and cannot support it, they will they want it doesn't come down to I don't care, another alderman saying I don't care what you think, because I've got a majority of people with me on my side. And all that if someone's really cannot support it, they we don't move in that direction until there's consensus to move in that direction. So I met key key clarification is not it's not unanimous. It's just that if somebody, I may not somebody may not be in agreement with it. But as long as I can support it, they understand the reason they won't work against it, and so that they can live within an essence.
And so that's a that as much as I like that. In my experience, that's somewhat rare in city government. That not that it doesn't exist elsewhere, but it's, it's what makes Marshfield, iMarsheldf, I think, and promise city government standpoint.
And you guys observe, and I'm curious, you know, obviously, you've been at some different, you know, different and local governments and what have you. So you've learned that way. But do you observe what other communities are doing in the state? Or maybe across the country that are maybe similar size or that have grown in recent years? Do you guys do anything like that to, I guess, learn or maybe don't make the mistakes they made? Or I don't know.
I'm not saying we won't make the same mistakes other communities have, or but we do try to learn from other communities. We learn how we learn those things are we're involved with, in a sprint, we're part of the Springfield, Missouri metro area. assets, there's regional meetings in the Springfield area, we're involved with somebody here, we get to talk to staff from other communities in the area, whether they be similar size to Marshfield, or larger or smaller?
I don't know that that really makes a difference of learning. It just once you learn and how applicable or how do you can we do it based on our size.
So we're, we're more than happy to share our story of how what we're doing and how we're doing it. To help you know, if it can be helped others, we're happy to do that. Sometimes via sharing, it helps somebody else. And then it brainstorms into something that we learned in return and how to work a little more efficiently or do some achieve something that maybe we didn't think we could do.
The but so through that. And then through training programs, we try to always make sure that our annual budget that we have funds available, so our staff can be go to training sessions and continually improve what their what their skill set is and knowledge level is and continually approved. That's, that's kind of one of my fundamental.
I don't know what the right word is, things are, or claim yours is to be a continual learner. And never, never assume or take the approach of on, I've learned everything I need to know about this job, or there's always more you can learn, and you can always get better at what we do so, and I think my staff, or all of our employees, whether they report directly to me or not directly to me, I think we all that they have that same mindset. And so I think that's, that's a key that, to me, that's a that fundamental mental approach or mindset is a is key to the future and Marshfield, because that will never we don't we won't rest on our laurels and, and get to a point where, okay, we're, we're as good as we need to be. And as soon as we get that mindset will create problems for ourselves down the road, in different ways.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think that's, that's motivating, I think for the staff, right, that you're investing back in them and their careers. And, and, and obviously, that invest back in the city. So that's pretty neat. But what are the, it's a two-way street, the city, the employee, every employee has to have that mindset. And so they have to invest in themselves to some degree, but the city has to be willing to invest in them as well. So and if I, we've had conversations here, that may mean that we're, we're helping somebody learned something they're going it may open a door for them, that they leave the city for a better opportunity, that you know what, that that's the flip side of that is if we if we're afraid of that happening, and we don't invest, we're not going to our employees are going to plateau out and we're going to have problems down the road. So it's just part of some risk, we run that there's other ways to deal with that with other factors of them, you know, we do our culture, internal culture, things like that, but hopefully retaining our employees.
Yes, it's like that popular quote that, you know, a lot of people are I see going around where it's, you know, something along the lines of someone says, like, you know, what, if we, what if we invest in our employees, and they leave in the responses? Well, what if we don't, and they stay. So it's kind of that whole thing is like, you gotta get, you gotta get back, you got to try to make people better. And, you know, ultimately, people are going to continue to grow their career that there are somewhere else. So right. As, as you've kind of grown up, obviously, with a lot of, you know, these different roles and kind of grown in the position or today. Are there certain things that you do personally from a daily habits or routines, things that you stick with, maybe make you structured are focused or anything like that? Is there anything specific that you've done over your career that has been helpful?
I tried to kind of go on just what we've been talking about here, of continually learning, you know, and that can be reading take making sure there's I make the time to read through. Organizational I'm a member of the ICMA, and both ICMA and the American Planning Association, both are international city managers, Association, guess and American Planning Association, you know, their magazines that they send out, or the email, electronic newsletters, things like that, reading those, and I'm not always able to do it to the degree I would like to do or have the time to do it. But I think that's a kind of going back to your question a few minutes ago about how do we continually learn, that's one way.
And I've consistently tried to do that over the course of my career. And it's just exposure to how what other communities are doing, as you asked earlier, that's one thing. The, I guess, from an organizational time management standpoint, I've, that's another that's an ongoing thing, I'm, I use the fact that just about a month ago, I sort of was old school with carrying around a notebook that each day, each page was a different day, and I had to do is handwritten in there, and, excuse me, I'd make notes from meetings in there. And I can refer back to that, and not a month, or maybe six weeks ago, I, I went to a new thing, excuse me, a small laptop, and that those new things that have been around for two decades, or whatever, three decades, excuse me, and got rid of the notebook.
And I've gone to the basically a tablet-style or small laptop, that using some a new app or actually have of scheduling and organization, and it's actually much easier, because I can pull that app on my phone, my laptop, or my desktop computer, and I've got different ways to access into that and, and make notes and it's a saving me time and of not having to flip through pages are rewriting things, you know, I didn't get this done today. So I need to write it tomorrow, it's already there. So you know, that's whether your city administrator or a planner, a secretary, public works director, to somebody in the field, it doesn't matter. It's just, you know, it's just learning and adapting to what works. And for me, it was made light of a laptop being a new sign, it's not obviously, but to me, it was what I was comfortable with, but I got, you know, exposed to and I finally just made a mental decision to let me just go to this and triangle and sat down with somebody showed me how they do it. And I've tried it, and it's working great. So just time and that's helped me with my time management organization of in my up my day, or day and week actually.
So and will not make that's a good thing. I mean, the fact that you're learning and again, that's one of those things are trying to evolve and saying, Hey, I did this for so many years, but hey, let's see, how do I how do I trim a few minutes out of the day or an hour of the day, maybe, by doing it better?
You know, that's exactly what it's done is in the morning, I would sit down with my notebook, and I would, it takes me about 20 to 30 minutes to sit down where now it takes me five, maybe 10 minutes and to do because all I do is go through my list of of my to do is if you will and and put them on my day, you know, there's a little thing I click add to my day, and it's there and I don't have to ride and search and rewrite. And it's just a time savings aspect. And, and to that point, I like i said i was old school and I was kind of resistant to go into the to that method even though I'd seen others doing it. And I was just kind of stayed old school with a bunch of luck and paper and pen and you know, but I see the benefits of it now. So it hit me over the head so many times with a hammer eventually will learn.
Well, then, let's end on this I want to I want to ask for I always like to get some advice, you know, maybe things have the wisdom that you've gained over all these years. And you could be specific on from a local government community standpoint, it could be more philosophical advice you live by quote you live by, it could be a mixture of both you can you can give a couple pieces here your call, but I'll kind of give you the floor here of some advice you'd share with the audience. Just to kind of improve their each and every day. Again, maybe it's something around the community or government or something, again, totally away from that, but just something that's helped you kind of get through life and continue to evolve. Anything you chair.
Sure. I guess I'm going to repeat a little bit or touch on a few things like that. And I'll hopefully out a few things here. But one is, like I talked about the example of the grant writing Transit Administration, my first job out of college was 6, 12 months into that job, I realized, I mean, this is not why I went to school, this is not what I wanted to do was kind of frustrated, right, we're down a little bit about that. But in hindsight, that has been some of the most valuable experience at times, that's helped me. And so the lessons I've taken from that is, if I'm, you know, I may be working on something that just, you know, it's not, it's not fun, quote unquote, fun or enjoyable part of the job, but I tried to take that approach of you know what it's not but down the road, it will hopefully pay dividends, I may learn something from this. And that's going to, that will make my job in the future more fun or more enjoyable. And so, you know, take that mental approach on, on a work aspect that may not, or maybe it's a job someone has, and it's just not the job, but you know, do the best you can do with it. And then you never know down the road where you're going to it's going to help you out.
That's one thing. Another thing is to be as I mentioned, just a continual learner. In never, never, never let yourself plateau out on thinking you've learned everything there is or that there is the learners because then the world's changing and it's hard to keep up with it sometimes. And whether you're making notes on your to-do list on paper and being resistant to using a laptop and using technology, or something or some other aspect.
Now there's a third thing, and it just slipped my mind. Well, make sure you carve time out for yourself of don't let work consume you. Because that just leads to burn out and be cognizant of whether it's taken a few minutes in each day or week or months or for yourself. And I've learned for me personally, and everybody's wired differently. But for me personally, I make sure I take a week vacation about every six to eight months, just because I need to recharge my batteries and get outside the box, get my mind outside the box like normal day to day box and just get away from work. And you know, you know, I think that's important to just let figure out what it is that keeps your batteries charged in that you don't, you don't just burn out to the point because then you can recharge your batteries when you burn out. But it takes a lot longer. And so I try to make sure I take time. Not every six, eight months, I take time.
Every month to two months, we're on a long weekend, something like that have just ended it everybody. Like I said everybody is different to everybody and depends on their personality, their their job they're doing and things like that. But make sure you take time for yourself and for your family. Obviously those hopefully that goes on or is understood by everybody that may be listening.
Well, that's great advice, John. And John, I'm certainly appreciative of you spending some time today kind of sharing your story. Obviously, your background and where things are going with the city. And hopefully that'll help a lot of other individuals and give some insight as well in some of those roles you've had. So thank you so much for taking time out. This has been an absolute pleasure.
Well, thank you for inviting me and I've enjoyed this as well and hopefully the inflammation or things I've shared or of benefit to others.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai