Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thank you, Casa Grande!

I had so many influential people that I was able to work under during my time with Casa Grande. Ben Bitter, Richard Wilkie, Jim Thompson, and Larry Rains were the four most frequent mentors I had while there and they each made different impacts on my future career. Instead of writing individual letters, I feel like an organizational letter would better suffice.

To the City of Casa Grande City Manager's Office: 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow and learn in the field of city management. Municipal governments serve a great purpose in the community and the Casa Grande City Manager's office is unparalleled in their level of service. I was able to observe an agency full of people passionate about what they do and the work they believe in, as well as a community they are proud to be a part of. I learned the value of a strong City Manager and Deputy City Manager and the benefits of having a positive relationship with the City Council. The staff is equally as important as the management and the drive and persistence the management city staff had was refreshing! I appreciated the assignments that I was given and I learned so many skills that I will be able to take forward in me career and expand on.

Thank you again for this opportunity and giving me the change to grow with your organization. 

Cassie Johnson

In the end....

 This entire internship experience was so beneficial! I learned so much and I grew with the variety of projects and assignments I was able to work on. My initial goals after my interview were as follows: 
  • Learn of various departments of the City, especially those I know I wouldn't necessarily enjoy (aka, water treatment). I continuously want to expand my comfort zone and learn about things that don't necessarily come easily to me or appeal immediately to my interests. 
  • Present to City Council in a formal setting. Although my previous internship had me presenting to superiors regularly, there is a difference when presenting in a public setting with elected officials. Learning the skills and needs of public presentations and practicing those skills is imperative for a future career in city management.
  • Better understand the needs of a smaller community. I'm a Arizona native and frequently visited Casa Grande while growing up. However, it's certainly a different type of city than where I grew up in Mesa or when I worked in Scottsdale. I wanted to better experience and understand the differences between the communities I knew and the one I would be working in. 
I The City gave me the opportunity to work with or observe multiple departments in the city, even if I didn't do a project with them, I was able to tour or learn about their projects. This variety in assignments allowed me to go outside of City Hall and experience the differences in the community structure from what I was accustomed to. I had opportunities to talk to community members and see what a tight-knit community feels like. My last day with City of Casa Grande I was able to present to City Council on a lease agreement that needed to be approved with Casa Grande Mainstreet. City Council meetings are televised and put online for public viewing afterwards. It was an interesting experience to be sitting up with council in the front of the room as a staff member presenting. They asked a couple of questions in a joking manner and it passed 7-0. Talk about a great first experience presenting to council! 

All in all, it was so much better than I ever could have imagined. I had opportunities that I never could have imagined that will undoubtedly benefit me in the future. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

We're goin' to DISNEYLAND!!!

I'm pretty sure I'm actually five years old. I love all things Disneyland and so when some friends wanted to go, I of course jumped at the chance. I actually jumped so high I flew into some other orbit because I didn't just go for the day, I bought the annual pass (lemme know if anyone wants to go to Disney, I'd be more than happy to join haha).

So a group of 6 of us went to Disneyland and we had a blast! We started bright and early, getting to the park at 9:30 (it opened at 9) and we left around 11 (closing time was 12). It was a long day but it was the beginning of the holiday festivities! If you have never experienced Disney Christmas, it's truly a completely different kind of magical!

Fairs, fairs, everywhere, fairs!

Part of our duties while being in Los Angeles is to assist with some of the recruiting events as needed. Travis and I have been quite successful in talking to interested students about the School of Public Affairs at the various campuses and we've been able to see a lot of Southern California schools!

First was La Jolla in the beginning of October to attend the Graduate School fair at UCSD. We set up our booth with all of our handouts and SWAG and anxiously awaited the students arrival. We talked to a handful of interested students and were able to spend time talking to the rep from W.P. Carey.

Travis and our booth! 

At La Jolla Cove after the event
The next events took place at the end of the month. First was UCLA. It wasn't as successful as UCSD, most students that came to the fair didn't seem to be interested in Public Affairs...we were in a row of various Public Affair and Social Work programs and our aisle was mostly a ghost town. Next we ventured to UC Riverside. What a crazy day! We talked to so many interested students about the School and what the career options are with an MPA or an MPP. We even talked to a professor who was interested in the PhD program. One student came up before the fair even began because she had already been looking into our program and had some more questions about it. 

A week later, I met with Nicole Boryczka at USC for another fair. We talked to a handful of students who were interested in the new hybrid program. ASU SPA offers the MPA degree in a 16-month hybrid format if students attend full time and stick to a structured schedule. All but two classes can be completed online and two classes, one in the first semester and one in the final semester, are weekend intensives. This option really appeals to people who are interested in the program but aren't wanting to relocate to the valley because of family or a job. 

All in all, it's been a great experience not only seeing these other schools but also being a part of ASU in this capacity. It's an entirely different side of things and a great opportunity to lean new skill sets. Tabling at an event and recruiting experience is something else to add to the resume!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fire Data

One of my assignments when working with Casa Grande involved a brief but potent research project doing a comparative look at other departments. It was a lot of phone calls, messages and emails but I eventually got all of the information I needed. 

Week 13:
Friday I began a quick research project for the Deputy City Manager. It involved calling local municipality fire departments to find out some information regarding their annual calls for services, clarifying how many stations they have in use and the number of frontline units they have available to them. From that information I am able to determine the population served per unit, the annual responses by population and the number of incidents per day per population. Because of it being Friday and many individuals who work in public safety work different schedules, I have to continue the assignment next week. Most individuals work 4-10’s, meaning they work 4 10-hour days per week rather than 5 8-hour days. 

Week 14: 
It took a few days to get contacts back from the various cities about the fire data, but eventually, I got most of the answers I was looking for. I also drafted letters to all of the recipients of soccer cards from RECon (it’s the project that keeps on giving) and had a meeting regarding the wrap up of RECon 2013. I met with Richard and Ben and discussed what worked and what didn’t for this past year as well as what to make note of for next year.

Week 16: 
Beginning a new project is always exciting, as is wrapping up a project. I have meetings this week with both the assistant fire chief and the deputy city manager to go over the data I have compiled in regards to the Arizona municipal fire departments. It was interesting information to compile and I’m looking forward to taking it forward. 

In addition to the spreadsheet I had made, I also met with the GIS department to see about getting a map for our local CFS (calls for service) data. The CAD software we used wasn't like what I was used to with Scottsdale Public Safety and so GIS had to go in and individually select each kind of call I was interested for different time periods. My time with Casa Grande was quickly coming to an end because of my relocation to Los Angeles and the maps came in a couple of days before I left. When I got them, we needed some changes made so I was unable to see the final product. I don't like leaving projects left undone, but the Deputy City Manager had the information he was most interested in and was able to use it moving forward. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

What makes you strong?

I think that Casa Grande's biggest strengths can be found in their people. I think organization not only has strong leaders in the leadership roles, but also strong leaders in all other levels of the agency as well. The people who work for the organization work towards bettering their community and the region. They look towards the future and through innovation.

I think that the organization operates on a well managed budget that promotes growth while not going outside of their means. The city is growing at a steady rate that will only strengthen the economy and the agency is matching the growth demands through the services offered as well.

I think that strengths come in many forms but aren't always acknowledged or appreciated, however, I think that CG makes efforts to acknowledge the strengths they offer, especially in their staff.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Public servitude & the world of urban governance

Seeing as how my internship was with the City Manager's office, everything that we did was done as public service in the form of urban governance. All of the various city departments, together, worked to give the citizens of Casa Grande what they needed from their government. I worked on projects that involved surface streets and funding, interstate exits, economic development, public safety, the legalities surrounding the airport and its tenants...the list goes on and on. 

Everything that I found myself working around was done for the public. And it made me incredibly happy, every day. Some people grow up wanting to be business professionals, or athletes, astronauts, or writers. I have always wanted to work for the public good. One could say my public service motivation ranks fairly high.