For the last 1.5 weeks in Mission Hills, I have participated in at least 3 meeting: city manager meeting, planning commission meeting, and ASPA awarding event. ‘Tailing’ Courtney, Mission Hills city manager, where ever she went is our plan. The first meeting that I participated was city manager meeting. The meeting was hold once a month, where all of the city managers and county manager came. The meeting become a platform for city managers to share idea or work that has been done and even information. The county manager will set up a certain subject that will be discussed during the meeting. At that time, we met with 15 city managers and Penny – assistant city manager. Penny temporarily replace the county manager who retired and led the meeting. The meeting minutes was recorded by secretary of assistant of city manager. The rule for the meeting was what was said in the meeting stay at the meeting. Before the meeting started, I’ve got the chance to introduce myself as YSEALI Environmental Sustainability Fellow. After heard about it, Penny informed us that De Soto would hold meeting about Sunflower Army Ammunition Plantation (SFAAP) public meeting. The meeting is a good place to learn and compare the development and challenges face by each city.
Mission Hills is considered as a small city, where residential and park as main land use. Some staff even named the city as Park City, where you can reach public park everywhere you go. Home in this city is the fancy one, and the minimal tax property for a year is about 80 thousand USD. So when you driving in here, the house like getting out from hollywood movie sets, it’s just that beautiful. If you’re a architectural freaks, you’ll find your heaven here. Even if you’re not, you’ll like it here. What make the Mission Hills is a unique city is that all the administration staff live outside the city. Mission Hills uses police and fire department from the neighboring city. While for water and wastewater, they uses Water One service. Using other cities department, gives win-win solution for both cities: (1) Mission Hills have efficient and effective financial budget; (2) the partner city gets additional income.
The priority of each city different from one to another and it influence the ordinances. In this meeting, Jill (our city planner), propose for a new ordinance on fence (and private fence) and garden lamp. As the problem with poverty and crime is little to none in the city, the ordinances mostly regulate the architectural and landscape. Yes, I only get it after attended the planning commission meeting. So here how the ordinance is made. First, city administrator propose a new/ review on an ordinance during the commission or board meeting. If they agree on the proposal (agree 100% or with additional input or changing), the second step would be public meeting. If the public agree on the proposal, we will move to third step, which is city council meeting. If the public doesn’t agree, city administrator have to improve it based on public input and back to first step. For the third step, if the city council agree on (with or without additional input), it will be new ordinance. But if they don’t, the city administrator have to come back to the first step. The mayor and city council were elected and work voluntary, and their salary is 1 USD. Usually people, here in Mission Hills, don’t come to the public meeting. Not because they are busy, but because they belief that their city manager and staff will work as hard as they could to provide public services.
On one occasion, I follow Courtney into 3 site visits (home visitation, roadwork, and building inspection). The lady asked to have Courtney to visit her house due to stormwater drainage system. During the home visit, she gave solution to the resident based on the existing regulation and available alternatives. They really appreciated that the city manager, Courtney came to their house and she love doing so. The next 2 visits, I’ve learnt that she understand perfectly on the technical issue on public work even though she didn’t have engineering education background. Her background is financial management, but she loves to learn new things. Her ability (quick in capturing and memorizing details) and high interest in engineering, made her able to gain a lot of information in engineering. In addition, her working background as social worker, make her a good facilitator among the stakeholders in the city.
Meghan, our assistant to city manager, invited us to join in Greater Kansas City ASPA award events. The award hands 8 award, which consists of: Stanley Fisher Memorial Awards; Dr. Jerzy Hauptmann Academic Leadership Award; Crisis Management Award; Public Administrator of the Year Award for Non Profit, Federal Government, State Government, and Local Government; L.P. Cookingham Award. The awardee comes from different background and age. The awardee who are a university member, was chosen by the college students. When all of the awardee came out to the podium and gave speech. You would notice that each one of them, acknowledge and thankful to other people contributions to their success. Not once, they started by saying in a way that the award came out as her/his only effort, which really is a heartwarming moment for me. One of the characteristic of a leader is acknowledge other people contribution to his/her success. This attitude, bring a good atmosphere to the team and makes each member feel appreciated.
Their passion in serving people could be seen from their speech, as many of them highlighted the importance of involving stakeholders in solving the social problems. One of the ‘story’ that I’ve heard was about the winner of L.P. Cookingham Award – Hannes Zacharias, a former Johnson County manager. He served the county in 18 years and his contract wasn’t renewed due to political issue. He was informed that his contract wasn’t renewed without clear purpose. This has caused the city to pay him, one year salary. In addition to it, there are a lot of people who disagreed to this decision as his works and services was excellent. His reaction to it, was golden. He didn’t blame no one – nada and he will keep on serving public as a full-time professor. What a leader he is to look up to.
I am so grateful to meet, and learn about their works, this amazing leaders. Professionalism, passion to service the public, and ability to facilitate multi-stakeholder is what makes a city/county manager and their staff a great leader for their team, and public. A lesson to learn and remember, and increasing my spirit in doing my thing, river conservation