Management in Action: Daniela Rivas, Assistant City Administrator/Finance Director, City of McPherson

 Daniela Rivas, Assistant City Administrator/Finance Director, City of McPherson

What does city/county management mean to you?

It means turning in your service, the unconditional giving of your gifts every single day.

We each have different stories about how we got into public service; my mentor was a public servant and I wanted to be just like her.  I’m sure there’s a variety of motivations about why we are here, but once you are here, you come to realize that local government is where real change can happen. It takes every one of our gifts; grit, lots of time, patience, diplomacy, empathy, ingenuity, and flexibility to the moon but most of all, it takes the kind of courage that led us to this path—the desire and will to leave our communities better off than when we arrived.

What does a successful improvement or project look like?

One that you can make it out alive! Just kidding. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of projects that were successful but not necessarily easy. My finance hat wants to say, “under budget” but I’ve learned over the years that it’s very tough, especially in the current market (not to mention the added obstacles that have come our way in recent years). The keys to a successful project I would say include having a clearly defined plan that everyone understands, a set budget that meets the needs of the community while making the best use of those resources, ensuring everyone’s role and project schedule is clearly defined (with accountability), a clear process on how issues/obstacles will be reviewed and approved, a plan on how communication to all stakeholders will go out, and most importantly, celebrating your small wins!

What is one improvement (operational, policy or physical) that you are most proud of?

My mom always says, “Love is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt.” Culture is like that too.  I recently had an opportunity to be a part of a movement to help redefine the culture in my organization. We were stagnant….stuck doing things, “the way they’ve always been.”  In order to move forward and be the innovative city that we were at our core, a culture shift was much needed. Our new ideas demanded we change our old behaviors and that included getting every single person in our organization on board. It meant changing long instilled habits, redefining priorities, and building new habits. It meant spreading that love inside and outside our organization. It was just a handful of us in the beginning. We framed our new values and lived and breathed them every single day. We kept it simple but stayed consistent. The champions of our movement delivered small wins and the power of those wins slowly, yet surely, demonstrated to non-believers the power of an empowered positive and rejuvenated culture. The shift is still happening, but leaders are leveraging the momentum to legitimize the new culture. I smile every time I see great things happening in that organization.

If you could share one piece of career related wisdom to a colleague, what would it be?

Drew Dudley’s Day One leadership-The key to leading in public service is everyday leadership. Leadership happens in the everyday things we do especially when we make it clear to others that we want to have a positive impact on their lives and that we are willing to put in the work to do so. It’s not enough to be supportive when you see opportunities to help people, we must be a catalyst for creating those opportunities and giving others the tools to create them for themselves. Make people feel like they’re better when you’re around and they will follow you anywhere.