I waited a while for the opportunity to sit down with Hillary Schieve the Mayor of Reno, NV. As you’ll read she’s justifiably quite the busy person. For me, after completing this blog post, it was worth the wait. During our sit-down we had a chance to talk candidly about growing up in Reno, screwing up tweets, and ping pong. But also we discussed management topics such as delegating authority, leadership as a role, and transparency. So let’s get to it.
Elton: “As you built your private business, it was out-of-the-box thinking that set the stage for you to excel in Reno even when we were in a decline. Can you tell me about that type of approach when it comes to being the mayor?”
Hillary: “As an entrepreneur, I have this drive and this way of thinking that is a little different. It’s typically creative and innovative. When tackling similar challenges in government, something totally creative and innovative is very difficult to put into an ordinance. You have to go to the legislature and have a bill passed to make a difference here. In my business or in being an entrepreneur, when faced with a hurdle I can immediately get creative and think outside the box. As much as I think we need more elected leaders that think that way and have that creative side when it comes to getting things done, you can still do it in government it’s just a little more difficult.”
Hillary: “For instance, we have local motels that are very dilapidated and a lot of are police officers are continually having to go to them when 911 calls are made.”
Elton: “Right, I saw some of those posts on social media referencing this.”
Hillary: “What happens is that it takes all of our resources to one property all the time instead of our police being out there with other citizens.”
Elton: “Instead of doing the job that they’re supposed to be doing?”
Hillary: “Right, exactly! My idea and it seems very simple and easy, is that when there are excessive calls were going to start charging you for those services. The business managers running these motels making excessive calls and consuming our resources; there has to be a better way. Unfortunately that’s not something that you can just do, you have to go down to the legislature and have a bill passed which takes a lot of work and time to get something like that and acted upon. That’s where it can get a little challenging but also this is where you can think outside the box. Now I’ll go down there and pop into these businesses and have a one-on-one meeting with these managers which can have a dynamic effect. But we also have to be very thoughtful and sensitive; for instance the same motels are being used for low income housing. You have to think “how am I going to work around this?” That is the one thing with government is that it can be a little challenging when it comes to wanting to get something done right away.”
Elton: “You’re actively engaging which I’ve found in business and as I’ve written about in my blog, if you get up out of your seat and actively engage individuals’ face-to-face, talk to them one-on-one, the results are ‘dynamic’ as you said.”
Experts Input: Readers please pause for a moment here. In a great piece about the dynamic engagement approach titled “A few Management topics in Brief” by Sree Rama Rao, he talks about how an organization’s environment is not some set of fixed, impersonal forces. The entire piece relates to my interview with the mayor but I’ll leave fore to you to read, it’s full of great insight. But to this idea of dynamic engagement he says: “… managers must not only pay attention to their own concerns, but also understand what is important to other managers both within their organizations and at other organizations.” It sounds like Mayor Schieve is doing just that by listening to what it important to these motel manager and their tenants. Let’s keep it rolling.
Elton: “When you’re down at these motels or wherever you may be and you’re getting that dialogue established, do you ever feel that some of these duties or some of this facetime should be delegated? Because what I see from the outside is that you’re all over the place. By delegating some of this might allow you to focus your attention to more quality results rather than the quantity of visits?”
Hillary: “I really want to connect to our community and that means being involved in many different issues and initiatives. I’m very much involved in being hands on with our community that’s why I focused on bringing back the neighborhood advisory boards (NABS) which I found are really important to the citizens of Reno. Other things like the university movement, the revival of downtown, and bringing in large economic drivers for businesses are also very important to the city. My focus on downtown issues revolves around cleaning up the blight, addressing homelessness and addiction, and again the university movement. People really want to live downtown, there’s a new generation of community that we’re seeing in technology and arts and culture so I’ve really tried to stay focused on these types of things; we all want a downtown that were proud of. But at the same time, I’m out in the community a lot because there are so many other issues that need to be addressed. I want our city to see me out there all over the place, I want them to know that I’m engaged and that I care. I think there’s a problem if you don’t see the mayor out and about.”
Elton: “Those are some things that were a part of the platform on which you ran, so seeing that you’re following through is tremendous. It sounds like that active engagement we were talking about earlier is keeping you focused rather than spreading you too thin and your energies are concentrated on the areas that are the most important to you.”
Hillary: “Well, I think you’re right, my first year in office it was really important for me to engage with our community. That’s the only way we’re going to change our community for the better, buy how our citizens want to shape it.”
Elton: “All of us?”
Hillary: “Yes, I was out there a lot getting lots and lots of feedback. If you saw my State of the State address there were five hundred people that attended. It goes to show that when you engage with the community it allows them to say: ‘Hey I am part of this city, I own part of this city.’ And that’s where things change, that’s where private and public partnerships happen, more opportunity happens. Because we can’t do it all, but we can certainly do some maybe most of it if we’re all in this together.”
Author’s Input: Pause again just for a moment here readers, and re-read or listen to that last statement:
“And that’s where things change, that’s where private and public partnerships happen, more opportunity happens. Because we can’t do it all, but we can certainly do some maybe most of it if we’re all in this together.”
That was off the cuff but really resonated with me after listening to the interview again. It allows for perspective and is realistic about what can and can’t be done by an individual, but also what is attainable in a united community.
Leadership as a Role
Elton: “For you, it’s a ‘dynamic’ relationship that you have with the city and at the same time the city council. As a focal point for both, how is your leadership style effective when you’re having to step in and step out of that leadership role?”
Hillary: “I think people might perceive leadership in different ways. For instance, our last mayor had a different leadership style and people were used to that style for over a decade. In the past I’ve been criticized that I don’t strong arm my council into enough votes. But that’s not the kind of leadership that I like to aspire to. I like to bring the council along with me at the same time, we’re all in this together. They’re all free thinkers and talented people, I want them to come to the table with their own ideas and be respectful of that. Remember, they were elected just like I was and we work for you so it’s important that we take into consideration what your wants and desires are. But we still have to make decisions and typically half the people like them, and half the people don’t. That’s difficult, one side wins and the other side loses. As we discussed earlier, I started out as an entrepreneur that was frustrated with the process of government, not a politician. I don’t want to rule with an iron fist, that’s not my style of leadership. Like I said, I’ve been criticized because people were used to what we had in the past.”
Elton: “And it’s different now?”
Hillary: “Yes, my style of leadership is very different from that, I believe that were all doing this together.”
Elton: “But is it still effective leadership?”
Elton: “So, if the results are manifesting themselves, and it’s effective, don’t challenge the style of leadership that got them there to begin with? That’s a big thing people can improperly focus on, when they’re critical of how you do something and aren’t necessarily focused on the results. Which,in the case of a governmental timeline, is even more difficult as the results might not be seen for a long while to come.”
Hillary: “And my personality is very positive and sometimes people perceive that as weakness. I really believe in having a community culture, one in which all us can shape this community, that’s more my style of leadership.”
Elton: “Besides being the mayor of the city, you have outside business connections that might make you appear biased when making mayoral decisions. How do you fight that perception that you’re making decisions about the city to favor your business connections? How do you maintain an unbiased approach?”
Hillary: “Reno is a small town and we all sort of know each other, it’s just part of living here. People come before the council all the time and people will always perceive the same thing differently. There was an incident where we were appointing people to a board and one of those people happened to be a friend of mine so I abstained from voting on that item. I know the council very well and I believe them all to vote their conscience and how they feel about a matter. I don’t go to them and say: ‘Do this or else.’ As I said earlier, they’re all free thinkers and incredibly talented and bright. But there are a lot of people who felt I put this individual in that place when again, I actually refrained from voting. So at the end of it you have to do what’s right towards the council and towards this job with a moral compass because no matter what your decisions are, you will always be judged by them.”
Elton: “Can you tell me about the evolution of transparency in the way that you interact with the council and bringing the citizens of Reno into the governmental process?”
Hillary: “Transparency is very important and a lot of it comes down to opening the doors to city hall so that everyone has a voice. I felt like before, and remember I’ve experienced being a council person prior to being the mayor, that business was only open to a select few. I felt that this was wrong and we needed to open the doors for everyone. So now you see people that are investing and doing business in the City of Reno that never would have been seen here before. We’re pulling in people from Silicon Valley, Arizona, even people from Japan. So it’s very diverse now which is healthy and a lot of that has to do with transparency. We want to be a city open to everyone, especially the residents. We want their voices heard because that’s what’s going to change the dynamic and the culture and make this city for them, for us.”
That wraps it up and what a great piece to be a part of. As you can see the Mayor of Reno is a very busy individual and so I would like to thank her for giving openly of her time and focusing on the questions in a genuine manner. She gave me some great insight into dynamic engagement which is a twist on active engagement, a topic I hit upon last year. In closing remember this dynamic engagement doesn’t just involve the mayor and her interaction with us, but it involves all the citizens of this wonderful city. It’s our responsibility to be dynamic with our voices, with our actions and with our convictions when it comes to Reno. The door is open, we just need to step through and engage.
Image Credits: Video, Picture, and Sketch by Author