Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mayor Betsy’s Key Tactic: More Listen, Less Talk

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Here's the report I wrote about IABC Fort Worth's April 15 event featuring Jason Lamers, chief of staff for Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. This report was originally published in eChaser, the newsletter of the Fort Worth chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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LISTENING, listening, listening. That’s the fundamental communications component around which Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has built her administration — and it serves her well — her chief of staff told the April 15 meeting of IABC Fort Worth on the campus of Texas Wesleyan University.

Jason Lamers is Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price's chief of staff
Jason Lamers, Chief of Staff
for Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price
Jason Lamers said Price emphasizes building trust and that she has succeeded with the public “simply by listening and being a communicator.” The mayor is “an amazing connector,” said Lamers, who also worked for Price’s predecessor, Mayor Mike Moncrief. “I thought he knew a lot of people, but Betsy knows a thousand times more people than Mike.”

Lamers, a Texas Wesleyan journalism graduate, addressed IABC professional and student chapter members, as well as journalism, communications and marketing faculty. His presentation was the keynote of the IABC student chapter’s annual luncheon, which featured an exhibition of student projects.

He said Price’s rolling and walking town halls provide opportunities to connect and listen at the same time. “People are dusting their bikes off … and coming out riding with the mayor. We’re going to them where they want to be. We’re not asking them to just come to City Hall or to some boring town hall meeting.”

The mayor still schedules traditional citizen input gatherings, in Lamer’s words “caffeinated town halls,” but the mobile approach is working. As a byproduct, he said, “people are getting to know their neighbors” as well as the mayor.

Price has established two targeted advisory groups — Steer Fort Worth, which challenges 18- to 40-year-olds in a young leaders program to develop workable ideas on issues like sustainability and water conservation, and the Mayor’s Faith Leaders Cabinet. She also has encouraged the use of technology to connect and listen.

She has an active Facebook page and a Twitter handle, @MayorBetsyPrice. And the city promotes, a website dedicated to collecting feedback. Lamers said around 70 percent of the input about the city’s May 10 bond propositions came through the site.

“We’ve got one person now … and that’s all she does, is she looks at the e-mails, she looks at Facebook, she looks at the social media and she’s responding. She’s getting answers and she’s responding.”

Despite having a dedicated responder, Lamers said not enough staff is available to accomplish all that the mayor wants. In 2008, “the city really just gutted the whole communication department,” he said. “But now Mayor Betsy has brought a new vision for communication,” resulting in creation of the Office of Public Engagement.
“So we’re building that back up … with the idea that it’s not communication, it’s public engagement that we’ve got to be focused on. Not just communicating with citizens but listening to citizens.”

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Keep running through the cold, icy reality of disappointment

The daily readings from Today God Is First by Os Hillman often relate to something that is going on in the world or in my life. But today's installment hit a chord on both fronts.

The central theme of today's reading intersected with a significant North Texas event: the cancellation of the Dallas Marathon, which was scheduled to be run Sunday. It was canceled – not postponed – because of the lingering cold and ice that was dumped on the area Thursday night.

Hillman's message was built around Romans 5:2-4: "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

I've done a lot of running since 1976, but have been dormant for a few months because of an ankle injury. I even ran a marathon in 2003. Every mile of my four months of training was solo. Whether solo or in a group, marathon training takes perseverance because it produces pain (suffering) in your legs, your lungs and your emotions. But the long process (perseverance) of training rewards you with character (positive will, moral fiber, integrity) and hope (positive expectation) of finishing.

Reading the comments of runners who had already arrived in Dallas for the pre-race events, you hear the disappointment. After all the expense (that won't be refunded) and persevering to train, all the pain of every training mile appeared squandered. All their hopes of dashing were smashed for this weekend. But they'll run again.

Even though they didn't get to run as they had hoped, they nevertheless are reaping the benefits. They're stronger in body and character because they persevered to prepare. They're not only ready and able to run a marathon, which many will do, but they're also better prepared mentally and emotionally for life. Hillman put it this way in his message:

"The path ahead of you is strewn with obstacles. People will oppose you. There will be financial setbacks, time pressures, illnesses and misfortunes. Some of the biggest obstacles will be inside of you: self-doubt, insecurity, procrastination, and worry. You must give yourself permission to succeed."

In the case of running a marathon, for most of us succeeding is simply finishing. Hillman concludes that success in life is similar:

"Life is a marathon, not a sprint. The race doesn't go to the swiftest, but to those who don't give up. We need endurance in order to deal with the stress of adversity."

He also takes a page out of the runner's training book and applies it to everyday life:

"We must maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. People give up or give out when they feel depleted – when they physically, emotionally and spiritually run out of gas."

When disappoint covers you like a sheet of ice, keep on "running." Don't give up. Persevere.