At the end of 2020, I’ll be concluding my annual contract and moving on from my role as Chief Innovation Officer and Director of the Department of Neighborhoods + Citizen Engagement at the City of Lansing.
In mid November I returned from voluntary furlough to button up some personnel and budget decisions and prep the Department for the new year. I had asked the Mayor for the furlough beginning Sept. 1. so that I could create some budget breathing room for our department during this daunting fiscal year, double down on completing my academic load and audition some internal talent for potential increased leadership roles for department succession planning.
This concludes 6 years of service to the City of Lansing – 2 as a part time consultant, 1 as an employee, and 3 as a Director/Chief. We returned home to Lansing in 2014 because we were homesick and wanted our son to spend his teenage years here and to be “from here” regardless of wherever his future may take him. He and his crew graduated from Lansing Eastern this spring under the weirdest of circumstances. We’ve had a great 6 years back home and love Lansing/Michigan/the whole damn Great Lakes region.
Upon returning home, I had continued my consulting work around the country and was asked to take on a small project with the City of Lansing as they were reworking Neighborhood services. I did so thinking it would be nice to do some local work and they would remain my 5th largest client. I did what I always try to do: identify the problem, build a solution, create a team to deliver it, hand off the operations to that team, and exit. Once we had created an internal position and a plan, I was set to serve on the search committee to fill it.
However, then Mayor Bernero and a some great colleagues (Myung Lee and Mauricio Garcia then of Cities of Service) said I needed to take the position. I had no intention of doing so, but the 2016 election happened and I felt that everyone had to step in and do the work in front of them to keep us on course. In 2017, the summer before Mayor Schor won election and came in to office, he reached out to me and said that he loved the work we were doing and he wanted to make it into a stand alone department and name me the Director with his first Executive Order. I accepted the opportunity to establish and run the Department of Neighborhoods + Citizen Engagement and develop the systems and programs which would be delivered. As that took off, we threw Chief Innovation Officer in over the top and at some future time on here I’ll write all about my love affair with data driven decision making, results based accountability, design thinking, priority based budgeting, public value, organizational change, community wealth development and infrastructure overhaul to meet the challenges of this century. There is inspiring work happening all around the world and I look forward to jumping in with two feet to the next right thing.
Before I get to all that in the future, I’ll just say that everyone should spend some time in City Hall. It is the hardest, most impactful place to be in all of public service. The opportunity to meet colleagues from around the world in the city space has been the most reassuring thing during these turbulent years. Brilliant people who could be doing a million other things with their careers have fallen equally in love with the craziness of running cities and are holding down the world right now.
I’m excited to turn the page on all kinds of life milestones. I’m turning 50 in 40 months, so I’ve got a strategic plan in place with big goals to be achieved by that time and a powerhouse Mastermind group in place to hold me accountable. I’ll be updating my head shot soon as I’ve got a lot more grey after these 6 years. I’m careening along a direct collision course toward a Janet Yellen hairstyle paired with an Elizabeth Warren wardrobe and I feel fine.
I’ve got a few big professional irons in the fire and we’ll see where that takes us next. I’m wrapping up 3 years at Harvard, having completed the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Program followed by the Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential. I’ve loved getting to know people from around the world through these programs and I’d be happy to continue our live teamwork every Sunday morning at 8am EST without the pressure of an assignment to turn around. They are all brilliant public servants with huge jobs operating under the most difficult of circumstances while they continue to sharpen the saw. I’m committed to executive learning programs because I absolutely need a consistent dose of this energy in my life.
So I’m taking a hard stop in the early new year to reassess and determine next steps. I will leave behind a department in great shape staffed by outstanding professionals who love this place as much as I do. If you want more info on what happens on the team, check out the annual report released earlier this year. Working with this group of people has been one of the great honors of my professional life. I can’t wait to see where they take this work next, and I’ll be a grateful citizen for their service. As I sign off on every quarterly and annual report I submit to Mayor Schor, thank you for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.
If you’ve read this far into this self indulgent post, we probably know each other well. So, I wish you all the best as we collectively face the challenges ahead. Whether friend or foe, ally or critic, I wish you health and prosperity in the coming year. The way through is together.