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Flowers = Caring = Engagement

May is the month for flowers. Washington D.C. is particularly beautiful in the late April/May timeframe.

I recently got up super early to go see the cherry blossoms (and get a parking spot) before sunrise. It was cold and windy, but was one of those special events. There’s a whole hillside of the National Arboretum that’s really spectacular during the height of the azaleas. And the area around the U. S. Capitol and Union Station is particularly pretty (both trees and flowers) during this time of year.

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We all know the saying that the only things certain in life are Death and Taxes.  Well, my March blog article was on Cancer. This April one is on Taxes.

The word “taxes” spurs all kinds of emotions. Most of us have experienced the whole range of them (what would happen if we take out the “n”)?

My early career was as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard (Federal government). My  last 15 years have been helping local governments. Both are focused on delivering services to the American public. Both use taxes to fund their operations.

My partner Ellen used to tell our classes “I’m just like you. I want the maximum services for the minimum taxes”. Finding that balance is a constant challenge for the local governments I work with. Some engage and challenge their citizens to help in identifying that balance.

The City of Round Rock, Texas used an on-line tool to involve citizens in budgetary decision making and service provision.  Asked them to rate services and assign budgetary support based on a forced choice model (identifying the level of service as a “Corolla”, “Camry”, or “Lexus”).

HOW WILL WE?: There are other aspects to this issue. People are generally more accepting of paying their taxes if they believe they are necessary and reasonable. I help local government leaders create a clear strategic plan and management system … then align the budget to that. This matters because people can more clearly see the organizational priorities and how the funding allocations support that.

HOW DID WE?: Beyond saying how we plan to use the funding, we should also clearly describe how we HAVE used the funding. More and more jurisdictions are doing that – often using pie charts.

SERVICE DELIVERY: But, what it really comes down to is “Do I feel I get the services I’m paying for in an  effective and efficient manner?”  Local government leaders have a duty to bring the right people into their organization, care about them, and equip them to excel at doing the organization’s work.

During my last Coast Guard assignment, I found and posted in my office a newspaper headline that said “Lest we forget”. We are servants of not only the public’s trust, but also their money.

Hopefully, I’ve painted a picture. It takes collaboration between several groups to make the intent of taxes successful in real life. 

  • Councils/Boards of Supervisors create the strategic direction with citizen and staff input
  • City/County Managers propose budgets which align with and support that vision and desired level of service delivery
  • Leadership (multiple levels) uses various methods to communicate how the funding will support the strategy and how the funding was used, and
  • ALL of the City/County staff is dedicated to delivering the best quality and timeliness of services

Our governments (Federal, state, and local) need taxes to perform their mission(s).  My call to action is to take a systemic approach to ensure we are treating this as essential, not as a necessary evil.


The University of Connecticut (UCONN) Women’s Basketball Team has been the definition of Excellence for nearly 40 years. Much of this is due to the leadership and culture built by the Head Coach Geno Auriemma  and Assistant Head Coach Chris Dailey.

EXCELLENCE: In this stretch, the team has had:

  • 6 perfect seasons
  • 11 National (NCAA) titles
  • 34 straight NCAA tournaments (since 1989)
  • 22 Final Fours
  • 14 straight Final Fours
  • 21 Big East Conference championships
  • 10 straight Conference Tournament championships
  • Separate winning streaks of 111, 90, and 70 in a row

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I have Cancer. This month makes 8 years since we found out about it.

I’m not sure how to acknowledge that. Is it an anniversary? Something to celebrate? What emotions am I feeling? Truthfully … I’m not sure.

It’s called a Gastro Intestinal Strombal Tumor (GIST). For awhile I had difficulty remembering that so I did what I usually do and create an association. In this case it was “stromboli”.

The tumor has caused a number of other complications (serious, cosmetic, pride)  – both on its own as well as from the side effects of the medications.

We found it by accident. There were no warning signals. We have not been able to find the cause.

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It’s February.  What an interesting month.

The excitement of the holidays is long past. Some of the resolutions and plans have already faded off the screen. It’s usually the worst weather of the year (cold, wind, snow). We feel trapped inside.

There are things to celebrate. The Chinese New Year occasionally falls in February. Black History Month highlights the achievements and history of African-Americans. Valentine’s Day reminds us to send and receive all kinds of love. President’s Day salutes two of our best – Lincoln and Washington – although we combine it into one day. And occasionally, we celebrate Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday in February.

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Life Direction

It’s January again! Ya’ll know what that means. Resolutions, plans, etc. Hopefully, they continue at least into March.

This blog is about the broader issue of Life Direction. I believe that your thinking about life direction should begin with knowing yourself and what you stand for. We’ll start with questions:

  • What is your WHY?
  • Do you have a MANTRA?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What are the key experiences that have shaped your philosophy?
  • Do you have life balance?
  • Do you know your top 5 of the CLIFTON STRENGTHS?
  • For your work, do you have an elevator speech?
  • What are five adjectives that describe your leadership style?
  • What are your other sayings?

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My birthday is coming up. Normally it’s a blah “Woo Hoo”. Like anniversaries, they are a bigger deal when it’s a “0” or a “5”.

This one is neither of those. But, it is another year of successfully dealing with cancer. I’ve had a malignant tumor since early 2015. It’s wrapped around the aorta and therefore can never come out.

So birthdays DO have meaning to me.

What is that meaning? It’s a reminder of my mortality … a nudge to use every day … to live more in the present. .. and to get more life balance. Reminds me that I am (and need to continue to be) a true Saggie.

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Do You Really Appreciate Veterans?

Veterans Day on November 11th is coming up soon. How will you acknowledge it … or … show appreciation to a veteran?

Let’s start with “What is a Veteran?” Basically it is “a former member of the armed services”. There are five branches of the United States military (armed services). They are: Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Army. You’ll notice that this definition does not include the men and women who are currently serving. That’s called “active duty”.

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Managers as Coaches

Can a Manager be a Coach? Much has been written on this. I believe that managers can and should DO coaching.

Think about the Manager you would follow anywhere. What did she/he say or do? What did he/she NOT say or NOT do? How did you think, feel, and act because of that manager’s behavior?

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