Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Transition time in Salt Lake

I am thrilled that Salt Lake voters have elected the remarkable Ralph Becker to lead the city for the next four years. We have been fortunate to have made many significant strides with the previous administration.

At this time of transition, as someone who worked in the Anderson administration for over 5 years, I have some thoughts to share.

There was an inordinate amount of turnover in the Anderson administration - much of it was needed, and in my personal opinion, only one individual who was terminated was dismissed unfairly - that would be Margaret Hunt, former Director of Community and Economic Development. She now works in the Huntsman administration where her skills and talents are widely used and appreciated.

Having survived through low morale and numerous changes (4 Chiefs of Staff in 5 years) of key staffers, I continued to support the Mayor publicly and privately. I admired his tenacity, his dare to dream, his passion for economic and social justice. We worked closely together on several projects, including West side initiatives, SLC Reads together and my personal and professional favorite - Bridging the Religious Divide.

Rocky Anderson, a lapsed Mormon, as am I, understands on a personal and really fundamental level that the inequities in Utah are palpable for those of us who do not fit the proverbial mould. He went to great lengths to staff his administration so that minorities were included. While this was not the case at all key levels, save for Rosanita Cespedes of the Sorenson Center and Alex Zunguze, formerly Planning Director and now CED Director. Alex Ikefuna was a wonderful man who fought the good fight as Planning Director for 18 months and finally gave up - realizing that at the core of SLC Corporation there is a mentality - even a sickness - amongst many staffers, lifers, appointees and yes, even department and division heads. Would that Ralph Becker would have the ability to truly clean house - literally and figuratively. Holding a major retreat for key staffers would be a good start. Tenure in a position is no indication of a person's ability to perform, as much as it is perhaps better the devil you do know, than the devil you don't.

Many of you may remember the training session that was scheduled for city staffers at all levels with Jerry Wilmore. I went into the session with high hopes for the city and for a transformation to occur, as Jerry insisted it would. The bickering that took place in that meeting was so unfortunate, as evidenced by the departure (again) of one of the Mayor's close advisors. A fundamental corporate change is needed at City Hall - morale needs to be boosted - the department with the highest turnover is well-documented - some 15 or so staffers in the planning division have revolved through those hallowed halls in recent years.

There are some amazing leaders and division heads in the SLC Corporation - the question is who should stay and who should go?

There is an amazing corporation by the name of TALA international - The Authentic Leadership Alliance - Please take the time to check them out. I think they would be a great help to your senior staffers and division heads as you make the transition.

I once heard it said that the Community Affairs office is the best kept secret in town. Why should that office be a secret? Why does the entire city not know of the great work that takes place in that office? Granted, I worked as a community affairs analyst, so I am clearly biased to that end, but there are many community leaders who serve faithfully and have in the past, some of whom have gone on to serve on the city council (Eric Jergensen and Jill Remington-Love come to mind), who cut their political teeth on their work as community council chairs. One of the most important meetings in town occurs at 7.30 in the a.m. on the first Thursday of the month - the Mayor meets with community council chairs and community affairs staff. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed in the community - believe me - within 24 hours of that meeting, it is addressed and either solved or the issue is being worked on - that is the strength of the community affairs staff.

Ideally, Community Affairs should become a true division within the Mayor's office, with a director and tenured/merit staff. Some years ago, the city council audit indicated that during a transition time with a new Mayor, much money is wasted because of the lack of continuity amongst staffers. Why are all community affairs staffers not afforded merit status? Dee Dee Corridini had the foresight to follow this wisdom gleaned from the council audit. It is helpful to have the same person answering the need line as has Pauline Peck for over 10 years who was also awarded merit status by Dee Dee Corridini.

What will become of the EAP contract that was awarded to the Mayor's close friend Steve Szukula at Comprehensive Psychological associates? These services served as a lifeline for me and many others at SLC Corporation as we struggled to maintain our equilibrium amidst the turmoil of the hirings and firings and constant criticism and low morale. Will there be a union in place for Mayoral appointees so that in the event that they bring a grievance against the Chief of Staff, as did I, that they have another place to go for redress, instead of HR who essentially serves the Mayor and is dependent on him for their livelihoods.

I have moved on to another journey and am finally able to breathe again after years of feeling stifled both personally and professionally. I live in a place where diversity is truly apparent and appreciated, not where it is merely a cute catch-phrase or politically correct term.

I hope that 40% of minority students will stop dropping out of Salt Lake's high schools with Ralph Becker's appointment of a liaison with the SLC school district. I had two children drop out of high school while I was busy tending to the needs of my constituents. Fortunately, one has since graduated and has received a full scholarship to a college in another state.

Recently, someone said to me: "Annette, you should never have gone to Utah - look at what you went through and what your children had to endure." I believe that in life, everything happens for a reason. The Daleys, Annette, Ryan, Kyle, Tye and Bryce, are fine and well - we are very resilient people, good, kind and loving. My children are an artist, athlete, musician and honors student - not bad for a single mum. They are a product of Utah and far better for the experiences that forced them to grow in ways I had not even conceived of prior to living there.

Good luck Ralph and good luck Salt Lake!

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