“Forgetting the Bad Stuff and Just Feeling Good” – Iris DeMent

Every day, the news that crosses the city manager’s desk (if I had one) is a mixture of good stuff like compliments to City staff, a new grant, or perhaps an achievement award, plus the inevitable bad news of disciplinary actions, citizen complaints, or financial challenges.  It is very easy to spend too much time worrying about the bad things and not enough time celebrating the good news.

I receive Praise Coupons about City employees nearly every day, and the stories range from a simple thanks for a small service like directing someone to a resource at the library to deep gratitude for helping to save a life.  I try to write my own thank-you to every employee who receives these compliments to let them know I really appreciate the attitude and effort that goes into earning them.  I also know we have many employees who never receive a public commendation because of the nature of their jobs.  I hope all of us occasionally take the time to recognize great performance that the public may never see or appreciate.

We have received some recognition for becoming what I believe is the first city in the world to essentially open our General Ledger to the public through our Dashboard, but I do not think many people realize how important this accomplishment really was.  I had a meeting yesterday with someone who just retired after a 30+ year career as an auditor for the state of Washington.  Our meeting had nothing to do with city finances, but this person had done her homework and looked at our Dashboard before coming to City Hall.  She expressed her appreciation for our transparency and the technical accomplishment of posting this information for anyone to see and use.  It is particularly gratifying to hear praise from someone who knows what they are talking about, and it’s a nice antidote to the occasional criticism we get from people who do not take the time to get accurate information before forming an opinion.

Yesterday, I also received a copy of an e-mail sent to Kate Porsche from a local business owner giving his report on how some support he received from the City’s urban renewal agency a few years ago had helped his company.  He wrote: 

“At the time of application [for urban renewal assistance] I’m pretty sure we employed 35 full time.  Most of these jobs were family wage jobs.  As of today we are at 78 full time with an average wage and benefit package of $51,500 annually.  Since completion we have added over $4,000,000 (yes, $4 million) in equipment.  Well beyond the $400,000 (10x more) we had estimated back then.”

The business owner went on to state that he is in the process of acquiring new property to accommodate planned expansions.

Stories like these and the knowledge that I work with many outstanding people in a great organization gives me a positive attitude toward 2013 and beyond.  I won’t really forget the bad stuff, but the positive news gives me many opportunities to feel good.