Management in Action: Kelly McElroy, City Manager, City of Newton

Kelly McElroy, Newton City Manager

What does city/county management mean to you?

Service above self. I am a “legacy”; my father was in local government or nonprofit administration his entire career as were most of his friends and colleagues. I saw what a difference they all made in their communities; how they worked hard to keep people safe through public safety services, clean drinking water, transportation systems; great quality of life and amenities; and good jobs for their citizenry. I hope to perpetuate that legacy and inspire other individuals that are as driven to serve.

What does a successful improvement or project look like?

I’ve been fortunate to participate in multiple large and small scale projects over the years in differing communities. The one common denominator has been that the improvement is something the community needs (like water treatment plants) or something they desire (like soccer or ballfield complexes). It’s important to collaborate, be as transparent as possible about the costs and the process, and make sure you are cognizant of what the community can afford. Sometimes that’s different than what they would like to have, and you have to work as a team to find that middle ground.

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

Creating high performing servant leadership centered culture. I have a mentor who says “your culture is not what you say it is; it is what your employees and citizens say it is”.  You have to walk your talk. When we have a staff vacancy we are incredibly careful during the interview and selection process to make sure each candidate understands our expectations for servant leadership and our core values. The most technically skilled individual may not be the right fit for the organization if they don’t share our core values. Changing culture in any organization is difficult and take lots of time, attention, and care, but it makes all the difference in the world. 

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

Be true to your own morals, ethics, and values. Don’t be afraid to speak up and/or walk away from a project, initiative, or organization if it does not fit your ideals or play to your strengths.