The opportunity to see the bigger picture

Teresa Scott, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Gainesville, Florida
Member, APWA Diversity Committee

Several years ago the City of Gainesville created a program called Leadership General Government (LGG) open to all employees interested in expanding their knowledge of City government and growing their leadership skills. This is a year-long program and generally consists of about 10 employees in each class representing a diverse array of government services. In April of this year, the LGG V class graduated in a ceremony held at the City's Ironwood Golf Course clubhouse with family and department managers and directors attending.

Each spring employees are invited to submit an application that contains two questions: (1) Explain in your own words why you want to participate in the Leadership General Government Program and how it relates to your future with the City of Gainesville; and (2) List three key issues facing the City of Gainesville and how they might affect the quality of life for the citizens of Gainesville. Upon selection the employees receive a congratulatory letter from the City Manager welcoming them into the program and telling them that "Not only will you broaden your scope of City government and the services it provides, you will meet a lot of really hard working employees committed to providing excellent customer service to Gainesville's citizenry."

A Program Coordinator is selected from a different department each year to take the lead in making the LGG class a successful venture. LGG kicks off with a full-day orientation session where the classmates have an opportunity to tell each other about their expectations for the coming year. They learn about various styles of leadership and how to recognize leadership. They take the DISC Personality Profile so they will understand their own and each other's profiles and participate in exercises that teach them to work together as a team.

To graduate, the program requirements include:

  • LGG meeting schedule: four hours twice a month (one is a work session and one consists of departmental tours)
  • Group attendance of one City Commission meeting
  • Individually-attended meetings include an Advisory Board and an Executive Staff meeting of their choosing
  • An individual project of their choosing
  • A group project of the group's choosing
  • Community volunteering of 16 hours

As Glenda Currie, Administrative Services Director who developed and sponsors the program, tells the class, "Upon completion of the program you will have a better understanding of the City of Gainesville—its administration, resources, activities and employees."

Several Public Works Department employees have participated in the LGG program and have completed such individual projects as a research paper entitled "Can the City of Gainesville Effectively Annex Property in the Sprawling Urban Reserve Area?" and an exploration and report on how the Regional Transit System has grown faster than public transportation anywhere in the State of Florida. (As a side note, transit ridership has grown from less than one million passengers per year to eight million since 1998, in large part due to the partnership with the University of Florida.)

From left to right: Richard Sumwashe, Senior Engineering Technician; Theresa Harrison, Transit Marketing Coordinator; and Dekova Batey, Bicycle/Pedestrian Program Coordinator

Theresa Harrison, our Marketing Coordinator for Transit, had this to say about her LGG experience: "LGG gave each member on our team the guidance and support to honestly assess our individual strengths and weaknesses, and adjust group tasks accordingly. The end result was a dynamic group project on the Reichert House. LGG IV developed a marketing/development campaign for the Reichert House consisting of a live website, poster, and a process/recommendation report. The best part of each team member is represented in that project. During our first meeting the Reichert House project just seemed to come together—from the initial brainstorming, creative process, and mapping of the project timeline to assignment of the individual tasks. The biggest gift I received from LGG was an opportunity to interact and work with a diverse and talented group of colleagues." The Reichert House is a foundation for at-risk boys that the Black-on-Black Crime Task Force operates through assistance from the Gainesville Police Department.

Ron Barlow, P.E., an engineer with the Public Works Department, volunteered his time helping the Arbor House (a home for unwed mothers) with their computers, which he still does three years later. Dekova Batey, Program Coordinator for Bicycle/Pedestrian Programs, said, "LGG afforded me the opportunity to see, firsthand, the bigger picture of how various sectors of the City of Gainesville work in unison to keep our City thriving to greater levels."

Richard Sumwashe, Senior Engineering Technician, said, "My participation in LGG III was different from any class, training or group participation I have ever experienced. It was an opportunity to work with some gifted fellow City employees from different disciplines and vocations."

Upon completion of the program, members are invited to participate in the Leadership General Government Society to continue their leadership.

As the Department Director, I have seen the leadership growth that LGG graduates bring back to the department and apply on their jobs. They have a broader understanding of how our department fits in to the overall function of City government and a greater sensitivity for what it takes to make a community great.

To contact Teresa Scott, call (352) 334-2070 or send e-mail to scottta@ci.gainesville.fl.us.