This helps build trust with the public and instills in citizens that their local government and elected officials are working to provide the best possible services. Trust is crucial and it’s something I’ve strived to build throughout my 28 years in public service.
Before the County Board of Supervisors appointed me as Coconino County manager last month, I pledged to work closely with staff and our citizens to ensure they have a voice on key issues. Fortunately, the County has proven itself to be a national leader in its collaboration with regional community organizations and government partners.
Never before have I seen such sincere efforts to be inclusive to find win-win solutions and pool limited resources to ensure residents receive the services they need. It’s a practice I’ve cultivated throughout my government career.
While many of you have gone out of your way to introduce yourself to me, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you.
My first introduction to government was in 1980, when I began as a newspaper reporter in Chandler. At the time, the city had 30,000 residents and the drive to City Hall meant passing through cotton fields and sheep pastures.
What fascinated me most during City Council meetings was watching local officials work together to make their community a better place. Soon after, I went to work for the City of Mesa and received my Master’s degree in public administration. After Mesa, I worked in my home state of Minnesota and in California.
In the early 1990s, the newly incorporated Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek was seeking its first town manager. When I took the helm as manager in 1994, the town had 2,000 residents, two full-time and two part-time employees.
During the next 10 years, Queen Creek grew from a budget of $2 million to $180 million and the population reached nearly 20,000. It was great working with town officials and residents to create a vision and identity for our community. Our success was due to the extraordinary communication efforts and the engagement of our best assets – our citizens.
After leaving Queen Creek in 2006, I became a deputy city manager in Phoenix, where I oversaw multiple city programs.
In 2010, I retired and traveled with my husband and son, who was nine years old at the time. Our travels led us to a number of other countries, but before long, my desire to serve the public brought me back to work.
In 2010, the town of Tusayan became incorporated and I found myself in the familiar position of helping build a new community from the ground up. I relocated part time as I worked as interim town manager while the Council recruited a permanent manager. During the next couple years, I took interim manager assignments with the cities of Maricopa and Globe, before I learned that Coconino County was seeking a new manager.
I researched the organization and was greatly impressed by its reputation for innovation and its progressive approach to delivering services. Coconino County also reminded me of what first interested me about public service many years ago.
After less than two months on the job, I continue to be amazed at how efficiently the organization operates and how well our elected officials and staff collaborate with the community and outside organizations. Throughout my career, I saw how territorialism and competition defeated cooperation and I could only have hoped to work with such a collaborative organization.
While the County is a model of good government, I believe new ideas are always on the horizon. I always welcome ideas about how we can work faster, better, smarter and cheaper. Thank you for the warm welcome to the community and I welcome your input on how we can work together to improve our communities. FBN
Cynthia Seelhammer serves as Coconino County Manager.