1) Tell our readers a little about your background, as well as when and how you came to move to the area:
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from the Ohio State University. I’ve lived in five different states and held positions as different as construction project manager, zoo exhibit designer, landscape architect, wetlands officer, zookeeper and code enforcement officer.
In 2010 my family and I visited the Black Hills on vacation and fell in love. We finally were able to move here in 2014 and I came to work for Hot Springs as the Planning Administrator, Building Official and Code Enforcement Officer in May of 2015.
2) How will your experience as the City Planning Administrator and Building/Code Enforcement Official help you in your new role as City Administrator?
Working for Hot Springs as planner/building and code enforcement has allowed me to really get to know many of the people who live and work in town. Especially through community meetings I have learned a great deal about Hot Springs: its successes, its failures, its dreams and hopes for the future. I think this experience has reinforced exactly who we are working for and has given me a better understanding of what the community wants from its’ city staff.
I have also had a great deal of experience with the people who want to build a brighter future for Hot Springs: the contractors, developers and investors. I understand their difficulties in building projects that are financially feasible and their need for the city to work for them, and not against them, in order to fill our empty buildings, provide homes for families and bring in businesses to help provide new jobs within our community.
3) What are some of your short-term goals to accomplish in this new position?
I’m still working on taking the time to sit down with every department head within the city and listening to them about their work, their goals and their ideas for making things better. We have amazing people that work for the city and their input is invaluable. My short-term goal then is to formulate a team approach to all city activities, to support the well trained people in place and to allow them to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Sometimes the best thing a manager can do is to just get out of the way.
To help the staff, I plan to start a single point of complaints – my office. We no longer want hours of our employee’s time spent listening to complaints. Instead, every employee will be given a packet of complaint forms to hand out to people so that their problem can be sent directly to the people who can research and correct the problem (if warranted) and our employees can get back to their work. As City Administrator, I will review all complaints and get them into the hands of the people who can best address their concerns. All complaints will have to be received in writing (or e-mail) with a name and contact number.
4) What are some of your long-term goals?
Long-term I would like to see the city to really embrace their position in the community as service organization and train all our employees in customer service and to remember who we work for.
I also want to do whatever I can to ensure the 2020 Highway Reconstruction Project is more than a new concrete path through town, but a welcoming, attractive and comfortable entrance for our historic downtown, our business center and our community gathering places.
5) What do you see as Hot Springs’ greatest strengths and weaknesses, and in turn, how do you plan to maximize those positives while addressing those shortcomings?
It’s all about the water. Hot Springs was built in the middle of nowhere and people came here by the thousands – because of our water. It is our story and it is what sets us apart from every other town in the Black Hills and in South Dakota. Our historic buildings tell the tale of the resort town and our state and federal veterans’ homes were built here because of the water. To set ourselves apart we need to embrace the past, tell our story, tell our story again and claim the place that is rightfully ours – the health and wellness center of the Black Hills. This is the theme I’ve heard repeated over and over again at community meetings and the people are correct: we need to return to what built us.
The only weaknesses I have seen or experienced is the collective mind set that we may fail or that the small town atmosphere that is enjoyed in Hot Springs will be lost. I believe with proper planning, a progressive Council, a creative city staff and partners like SHEDCO, SHIFF and Dakota Resources the sky is the limit – and we will create the future WE want.