Monday, June 27, 2011


I have said, before, that I started out as an intern with the City. Since then I morphed into other roles, as a paid employee. Over the years I have seen my fair share of interns come and go. I always compare them to my perception of how I did (perfect, of course).

This week is the last week (hopefully for now), of employment with the City for our Sustainability Coordinator, Michele Alexander. Michele is a bright, enthusiastic, smart person who honestly wants to serve the public interest. Michele is leaving because the funding for her position runs out on June 30th. We haven't been able to secure funding through grants, and the general fund could not sustain the position when comparing it with others that we have within the municipal corporation.

Michele started out as an intern. She came to me while finishing her Master's in Public Administration at UNH. One thing early on that stood out with Michele was her intelligence and maturity. She is older than many of our past interns, so comparing maturity is not fair, but really is life? Michele brought the ability to reason, and to question with logic. She has been willing to pitch in and grow in the organization and truly has accomplished both.

Michele's first task was to work with staff to document tasks we have and how we complete them. I am a systems thinker and I like the idea of developing standard operating procedures. Michele took that bull and ran with it. She interviewed the employees and sat down and came up with bullet point based project/task steps. These will continue to be useful in the future as they help define what is expected when we process a development application or draft a letter.

The next project Michele worked on was to develop a work plan template. This project encouraged the department to think about projects before they get beyond the proposal stage. In other words, with the work plan template, when a project gets suggested, we can use the model and fill in questions regarding funding needs, and availability, also we can look for connections to the Master Plan and decide what key resources are required. In the end myself and others can then review the project request and decide if we have the time and other resources to complete the project in the best manner possible.

Finally, as an intern, Michele worked to rehab the Community Trail. She saw the need to champion that project and pulled various resources together last summer to develop the work plan for the trail and then gather outside resources to conduct clean up events, organize the grand opening and perform other tasks that helped move that project on.

So, that's that. Her intern career in a nutshell. From September to November Michele hung around as a volunteer. In November, I found some money to fund a sustainability coordinator position and she jumped at the chance to hang around more, much to our luck.

As an intern and as an employee she has stood out. She will go further than the rest of us, if she wants to. I have said a few times to her, that I expect one day to open up a planning journal or magazine and read about something she is doing or perfecting. I can't wait for that time.

I can fill the rest of this blog entry with useless skills and meandering that interns have brought to us, or I could talk about how I had to fire one once (it is a good story, so I'll save it for another blog entry). Instead I'll leave you with this: at the start I said that I have judged interns by my perception if how I did. No longer, now I can judge them by Michele's imprint.

That is pretty cool.

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