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Leading by example: the importance of diversity

A speech by Jelynne LeBlanc Burley

Jelynne LeBlanc Burley, Deputy City Manager, City of San Antonio, Texas; Jason E. Cosby, Assistant Director, and Alyssa M. Lopez, Senior Management Analyst, Department of Public Works, City of San Antonio, Texas

On September 11, 2007, Jelynne LeBlanc Burley, Deputy City Manager for the City of San Antonio, provided an inspiring speech at the Congress Diversity Brunch speaking of her achievements throughout her career. From the great state of Louisiana, Ms. Burley began her career with the City of San Antonio in 1984 and has served such departments as Budget and Research, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Development Services, International Affairs and the Office of Military Transformation. While serving as Special Projects Manager in the Office of Dome Development she was responsible for project management and design coordination, sports franchise negotiation, and administration of the Small, Minority, and Woman-Owned Business Advocacy Program for the Alamodome.

During her tenure with the City, Ms. Burley has delivered more than $550M in capital projects in the past 23 years. While obviously facing many different challenges during this time, she mentioned that when she reflects back on her career she did not see them as challenges but rather as opportunities to improve herself into what she has become today.

Jelynne LeBlanc Burley speaks with Kenneth Emezium, Supervising Civil Engineer, City of Berkeley, Calif., following the Diversity Brunch at the San Antonio Congress.

Ms. Burley realizes the importance and value of education. She has a B.A. from Southern University and an M.A. from Trinity University. She is also a 1999 graduate of the Construction Executive Program at Texas A&M University as well as a part-time instructor at Trinity University.

Working for the public sector, Ms. Burley understands the importance of both work experience and civic participation. She expressed the importance of having high-quality experiences in work that allow you to build competence, credibility and confidence, and elaborated on the importance of participating in community functions and organizations. For example, she is in the Rotary Club of San Antonio, San Antonio Area Girl Scouts Nominating Committee, Texas City Management Association, Urban Management Assistants of South Texas and is on her third term on the National Forum for Black Public Administrators Board of Directors. Ms. Burley also finds time to participate in various volunteer community events throughout the city. These activities and associations have allowed her the opportunity to understand her work and see the benefits it has on the city. She is blessed and humbled to work for the greater good of the community.

Being successful in her career is the product of being able to get the career and social support that mentors, sponsors and special peers provide. Being active in the community and professional organizations also provides a great opportunity for networking. By partaking in such activities and meeting new people, she has been able to experience new cultures and different thought processes and has provided an excellent opportunity to learn a new way of doing things and enhancing what she has already learned.

Her advice is to stay engaged in new methods of learning. Read books and journal articles to discover new technologies that might assist you in your work. This Congress was a perfect example of how you and your employees can network and learn the latest and greatest public works has to offer.

Amidst getting an education, gaining new work experiences, joining new organizations and volunteering in the community, it is also important for you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to add value. Are there areas that allow room for improvement? Do not sit back and make excuses for not accomplishing your goals. This is the time to figure out how you can make it happen. If you are an employee looking to advance in your career, ask yourself what you need to do to move up. Do you need additional certifications or different work experiences? If you are in management, ask yourself what opportunities are available for your staff to achieve their individual goals. How can you assist in ensuring that they have the tools necessary to grow within the organization?

Ms. Burley closed her speech by expressing the importance of commitment to yourself and your organization. Among all of her accomplishments, she has two more—she has raised two very proud and independent children. This is proof that it can be done and you can have it all. Take charge of your own career as this is your responsibility.

Jelynne LeBlanc Burley can be reached at (210) 207-6543 or jburley@sanantonio.gov; Jason E. Cosby, a member of APWA's Road Safety Subcommittee and former member of the Diversity and Membership Committees and National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, can be reached at (210) 207-7785 or jcosby@sanantonio.gov; and Alyssa M. Lopez can be reached at (210) 207-5862 or alyssa.munoz.lopez@sanantonio.gov.