Listen and learn from the best in local government
At LeaderGov we want to equip you to lead well. These enlightening podcasts, from top local government leaders, will help you gain valuable insights into a variety of leadership, management and teamwork topics, so you can lead better.
You can also listen to LeaderGov Podcasts via Apple, Google Podcast or Spotify.
Well, we hope everybody's having a great day. This is Bill Stark, with LeaderGov and I'm very honored today to have a friend. And one of our customers with us, Alicia Vaughn from Catoosa. County. She's Catoosa's County Manager. Good morning, Alicia.
How are you doing? Doing very good. Winter is finally here. It was like 30 degrees this morning when I woke up. So it's a little bit easier to get in the holiday spirit when
it Yeah, so eight degrees?
I know. Yeah.
The results of living in Georgia, exactly. excited to have you here to talk about culture for a few minutes with the folks that are listening and participating in our workshops and online learning. And kind of get your perspective on a few things related to culture and local government. First, just give us kind of a real high level of your background and local government what you've done over the years.
Okay, sure. I've been in local government for about 13 years. I graduated from the University of Georgia with an accounting degree and always thought that I wanted to go wanted to be a CPA, actually, but ended up in government, which has been awesome for me, I just, I love working in local government, and I love working with citizens. I started off my government career at the city of Dalton, as an assistant finance director there, I was there for about six years. And then the CFO position with Whitfield county came open. And that seemed like a, you know, good next step for me, I was ready to take on a challenge. And so I went to Whitfield County, which was also an awesome experience working in finance, which is, you know, really what my degree is all about. So I did that for about seven years. And through that, in working with the department heads, I really, really enjoyed interacting with the other department heads and kind of started to think in thinking about getting into county management at that time. And the county manager position and Curtis, the county came open. And that just seemed like an awesome opportunity for me. So I applied for the job. And luckily, I got it. And so I have been with Pacific county now as the manager for about 15 months. So I'm fairly new still to Caeser been here a little bit over a year. And I've been in I've been a county manager, and I'm really, really enjoying it, it's been an awesome experience for me so
far. Oh, that's great, thank you for sharing a little of your background. And I know that it could choose a county based on sort of your leadership style, and some of the things that you value and that your team values you, you have a desire to really affect the culture of the employees that you serve. Yeah, tell me a little bit about how that's what that's been like to bring a new fresh approach and kind of you're trying to create a new culture for your team, right?
I am, I am definitely trying to create a new culture. And I think honestly, that's probably the one thing that really attracted me to the county manager position is I wanted to do something where I could really make a change in an organization. And I feel like being in a management position, you know, management and, and leadership can really affect the culture in an organization. And, you know, I guess, for me, coming into this position, there, there was management that was here and did a tremendous job. But the county in general has just been very kind of fiscally conservative, I guess you would say, at a time when they really needed to be, you know, they went through that the economic downturn, and we needed to make some cuts in the budget, and we have a fairly small budget for our county our size. And so I came in to an organization that really just had a very conservative, I would say, culture, as far as you know, spending goes and so there was a lot of just trying to make Do you know, with with what you have kind of, you know, attitude, and that's just because you know, that that was born out of necessity. So, what I'm really trying to do is to ask the department heads to kind of think outside of the box, which is new for them, you know, now that we are in a in a really strong financial position, and we have, you know, we have a chance to kind of expand, you know, on the services that we're providing, we're growing counties, our population is exploding. We've got to get ready for that. So I'm asking the departments to look internally at ways that we can become more efficient. And, you know, also really just focus on supporting my department heads and all Though asking them to do the same for their employees? Yeah, really trying to change the culture here.
Yeah, yeah, it sounds like it. And and understandably so you know. And one of the things that in this in this topic that we're we're sort of honed in on right now this cultural topic is, we're asking ourselves the question, and we want to talk to cities and counties about how employees can be engaged in the culture. In other words, if they see something that goes against the culture that you're trying to create, what do they do that will affect us? First of all, do they understand the culture? Right? That's, that's being fostered? Number one, and then if they see something that sort of goes against it, you know, what do they do? How do they participate in the culture, and foster the culture that you're trying to create? So can you speak just to a minute about how the employees sort of participate in this process? Sure.
So I mean, I think with, you know, with any workplace culture, you know, for me, it's really important to, that, they see that in me that I'm setting a good example, and that I'm sharing with them, you know, I'm sharing with them what I want the values of the organization, organization to be, you know, I'm sharing attitudes, and at the same time, providing them opportunities, and that's exactly where you've come into play, you've been a good partner with us that can take the county is to provide opportunities for education, you know, and just to teach the employees about the value of being good leaders and good managers, and to also help them, you know, help them understand that it starts with them, and it filters down. And so I need to get buy in from my department heads. And so it's important for me to communicate with them. And then also give them the opportunity to learn and communicate what they're learning to their employees, because their employees are looking to them for leadership. And so, you know, I feel like that's really, really important. So provide training opportunities to create good morale to, you know, to create an opportunity for teamwork and communication and collaboration. So,
yeah, well, those are Yeah, what you're describing there is there's there's sort of like values, but they also bleed over into the actual environment or culture that that you all want to have. And so let's just say that you're, you're doing that and you're making great progress. And the employees are like, wow, this is a different environment, a different culture, I like this. And then when did they wake up? And, you know, they notice things are shifting and drifting away from the culture that they understand that you want and the culture that is there good culture, things are shifting or drifting? What is there? What would what would you recommend the employee do in that case, where there's a disconnect between the ideal what we want? And what the reality is today? I mean, okay, we're gonna go off record first second.
You can edit all this.
Exactly. So what are you I want to make sure I understand exactly what's,
what's the employees? What's their responsibility, okay, in fostering or protecting the culture that you all want to know, is what they see that employees in their department are stealing. Okay, yeah. You know, how do they do they talk to their manager, they go to HR.
So basically, like addressing it head on, not not waiting, you know, not letting the problem, you know, continue, continue, but addressing it the second that say that there's an issue, you know, thinking about what's the best way to deal with that having conversations with the employee coaching the employee, you know, that kind of thing
to say that in a sentence than to say, first of all, I would say hit it head on with it.
Okay. I mean, I think that that I think that the employees are that supervisors need to hit those kinds of issues head on.
Yeah, so essentially, don't let them fester.
Don't let them fester. No, don't let them fester. And I think too many times in organizations, it's just easy, you know, especially in an organized organization like ours where you're short staffed because we have had to make cuts. So we do have a lot of people wearing a lot of different hats and sometimes management gets pulled down into the weeds and they don't want to dress you know, in Wait issues head on? Important to remember that you're a manager first?
Yes, yes, well, this is good, it's a great conversation because culture is really everyone's responsibility. And there's a tone. And there's an environment that's created by not only the leadership team, but also the employees. And to the degree that the employees can get engaged and participate and speak up, when they see something that really goes against the culture, that's something that we really want to encourage employees and local government to do, to be a part of it and to be active in the, in the protection of the culture,
yeah. And accountable, you have to, I think that it's important for management to help, you know, communicate the vision of the organization, and, you know, to share their values with the employees so that they understand what what those values are for the organization. Because that that creates buy in, and that you're going to have, you know, when employee feels proud, and they feel valued, and they want to come to work, and they feel good about coming to work. And they feel good about the mission of the organization, that's when you're going to have buy in, and that's when they're going to be more likely to step up and say, Hey, this is not right. You know, this is not what our organized organization is about.
Well, and I guess at the end of the day, too, if an employee doesn't like the culture, or they don't feel like they're prospering in the culture, there's not a fit. At the end of the day, some people just may not belong exactly at that local government. So there's that option as well. If you have a real innovative culture, for instance, in a risk taking culture, which can be a great thing,
very conservative. Yeah, it just may not be a good fit. Yeah, yeah, lately. Yeah. So
the employee has, has some options, and they have a role to play in the development and the sort of fostering of a healthy culture. And we wanted to just be sure that that was talked about a little bit. So thank you for sharing your thoughts there. This has been great. Thank you for taking a few minutes and and talking to us about culture. And I'm really looking forward to seeing, you know, a year two, three years down the road, how, how some of your influences, and some of your values and goals for the county get implemented. And you begin to really shift the culture there. For what the community may
not Yeah, it's an awesome opportunity. It's such, it's such an exciting thing for me to know that, you know, it's humbling to but to know that you have, you know, a chance to kind of to kind of shape and shift workplaces. That's exciting. You want to get up in the morning and kind of
Yeah, we all need that, don't we? Very well, thank you so much, again, for taking time. And I'll just say anybody that's listening, if you drive it up by 75, toward Chattanooga, and you want to experience Catoosa County just get off at Ringgold, or Fort Oglethorpe exits, and buy something expensive, and that'll create a lot of taxes for the county tax revenue. That's right. But you're just up just shy of Chattanooga, and yeah, yes, folks are out and about in the community. That's where Coos County is. And if you want to learn more about the county, check them out on the website and, and stop by there one of the exits and and boss something expensive and support counting, right?
Absolutely. Anytime come by my office and say hello.Great. Thank you so much.