A Different Road
On Monday morning, instead of making a left turn out of my driveway to head to Kannapolis City Offices, I made a right turn to head to Concord’s Alfred M. Brown Operations Center. For a brief history of Concord, see my past blog post here. My time spent commuting hasn’t changed much. I can generally make the trip between my home and the office in about 12 minutes. Once I arrived to the operations center, I was greeted by Deputy City Manager Jim Greene. The final stop of a grand tour was my personal office for the next 6 weeks. Whereas in Kannapolis I was embedded in the finance department, in Concord I am surrounded by engineering staff. Having earned my undergraduate degree at N.C. State University, I am used to being around a lot of engineers.
Soon after becoming acquainted with my office, Jim took me to the municipal building in downtown Concord to attend a City Manager’s Office staff meeting. Before the meeting, I met with Jim and City Manager Brian Hiatt to discuss some of my first projects with the City of Concord. One assignment calls on me to prepare an article for the quarterly city magazine on electric charging stations and electric cars that are coming to Concord. The second involves building off the work of last year’s intern on street trees. My third assignment is to research how the City should address security in its new City Hall, which the City expects to begin construction on this fall.
Later that day, I had lunch with Jim where he emphasized how he and Deputy City Manager Eddie Smith of Kannapolis wanted this internship to be a true learning experience. He encouraged me to arrange times to meet with individual department heads to learn more about how each department operates. Right after lunch, I took advantage of this opportunity and met with Brian Moore, manager of solid waste and recycling. He explained to me the operations of his department and showed me various sites, including the Waste Pro offices and garages. Waste Pro is a company that the City of Concord contracts with to collect garbage, recycling, bulky waste, etc. Brian also caught me up on an issue that Concord, Kannapolis, and Cabarrus County had been having with a contractor that all three governments used to process yard waste.
The most exciting part of my first week in Concord, was a visit with City Manager Brian Hiatt to the Concord Regional Airport to view an emergency management exercise. Representatives from Rowan County were also there to observe the exercise. The exercise was based on a shooting scenario at the airport with live people playing victims with serious injuries. Public Affairs & Projects Manager Peter Franzese, who is also the new Carolina MPA Alumni Association president, played the terrorizing culprit in the exercise. I watched how members of the police and fire departments worked together effectively and efficiently to secure sections of the building and move victims to safety.
Brian Hiatt, Jim Greene, and Peter Franzese are all graduates of Carolina’s MPA program. Just when I thought the world couldn’t get even smaller, Peter and I discovered that my aunt was his high school world history teacher. This connection and others like it that I’ve discovered with other city staff reminds me of how close local government is to its citizens.
After observing the emergency management exercise at Concord Regional Airport, I traveled with City Manager Brian Hiatt to Charlotte Douglas International Airport for a Centralina Council of Governments meeting of regional managers. These meetings provide managers and assistant managers a forum to discuss challenges, successes, and opportunities for collaboration. The meeting ended with an hour long behind the scenes tour of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. We were shown everything from where private planes and jets are parked to major maintenance hangers for commercial planes. The director of the airport also pointed out several infrastructure projects that are underway, which will accommodate an increasing number of travelers.
This week, Jim also included me in functional and supervisory meetings. At these meetings, I heard how city officials are taking steps to address current challenges. More importantly, the meetings gave city staff opportunities to communicate concerns and share solutions with each other. I’ve observed that constant and clear communications are a priority in both Kannapolis and Concord.
This coming Monday I look forward to meeting with Christie Putnam, the director of water resources. I’ll visit a water treatment plant with her, which is just around the corner from my house. I’ve passed by this plant my entire life, without ever fully understanding what happens on the other side of the fence. I look forward to finally resolving this mystery. I’ll also meet with Joe Wilson, the director of transportation, to learn more about his department and visit some facilities. I appreciate how this internship lets me venture out into the field to better understand the topics that are discussed and analyzed in meetings. My next post will cover these visits and any other major highlights of my week.