Ownership and accountability are not merely "buzz words." Rather, they are the focus of a new public works program in Portland called "Districting."
Nadeen Daniels, Assistant City Manager and newly appointed Director of Public Works, has long envisioned a more responsive and productive way of providing public works services to the department's customers, our taxpayers. If work crews were to perform day-to-day maintenance within an assigned geographic area, she reasoned, ownership and accountability would naturally follow suit. Island Service workers have been Districting for decades in Portland and, more recently, workers have been permanently stationed in the Portland Downtown District (PDD) with very satisfactory results.
Having managed City Council constituent issues for a number of years, Mrs. Daniels found that Public Works has often had to dispatch three or four different staff members to accomplish one task. "I have, in the past, needed to conduct as many as three or four distinct conversations in order to comprehensively tackle one citizen-initiated request! Clearly this was not an efficient way to do business," Mrs. Daniels stated. It has not been a lack of staff concern, but rather the inhibiting nature of the previous departmental structure, that has reduced customer satisfaction. It only made sense, therefore, that the actual districts that would ultimately define the boundaries of the districting program should be the five city council districts. Each district "team" will consist of four district workers and a district leader. Each leader will report to Steve Earley, a 20-year employee and our new District Coordinator, who will hold responsibility for oversight of the program, scheduling of the teams, and weekly work assignments to guarantee timely response to our Councilors and customers.
Districting is one of three functions within a new department division called "customer service." John Rague, 17 years with the City of Portland, serves as the new Customer Service Manager. The "Districting" concept melds over 20 different job duties into one program. Prior to the reorganization of the department, these duties were performed by employees who were a part of 13 separate divisions! Talk about barriers! These walls have been torn down, the "Districting" workers have been cross-trained in the performance of the various duties, and morale and job performance have reached an all-time high. The department has moved from receiving a complaint every two days on average to a letter or call of thanks once a week. Now, that's success!
The second component of the new division is Customer Service. Dan Brown, 16-plus years with the city, serves as our new Customer Service Coordinator. Customer Service is the "funnel" into which all requests for services are directed. Upon receiving requests, pertinent information will be logged and a work order printed and forwarded to Steve Earley for scheduling. All requests will be monitored from start to completion. If for some reason a request cannot be completed within a short amount of time, the customer will be notified within oone week of the request.
Public Relations, the third component of the new division, is the educational and information-disseminating arm of the division. Mary Butler, seven years with the city, serves as the new Public Relations Coordinator.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (207) 874-8609
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.