Friday, August 12, 2022

Terrible Teens? Dana Kirkland Sees It Differently

When talent meets passion, magical things can happen in the workplace…even when there are unique and sometimes great challenges. Managing programs involving teenagers trying to find their place in the world might be intimidating for most, but for Southlake’s Teen Court Coordinator Dana Kirkland, it’s what she was “meant to do.”

Dana’s love and respect for young people, coupled with meaningful work experience and a quest to get it right, is extraordinary. And the Teen Court program works beautifully as a result.

Dana was a teacher in New Mexico for 26 years before retiring. She taught 4th and 5th grade in general subjects and 6th and 7th grade in Math. In 2016, Dana relocated to the DFW area. She happened to see the job posting for Teen Court Coordinator and immediately pursued and got the job.

She has brought her classroom management, public speaking, and conflict mediation skills to her daily work. Dana is creative and determined and gets the job done, even when circumstances have required her to regroup.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dana went above and beyond to find ways for teens to participate and fulfill their obligations while still learning from their experience. Where a lot of teen courts failed during that time and are no longer functioning, she was able to manage the program and make it successful,” said Kristin McGrail, Municipal Court Manager.

Writing essays was one option for teens to complete service hours. The topics were varied and always thought-provoking, all with the intention of getting the teens to reflect on their choices. Dana has read hundreds of papers in the past two years and has provided valuable feedback to the teens regarding their papers.

Dana does everything she can to make the teen court experience meaningful and enjoyable for everyone involved. Whether cultivating new community service work sites, coordinating training for teen attorneys, or organizing a professional conference, Dana uses her considerable skills to support adolescents as they prepare for adulthood.

For bringing a lifelong passion for education to the job and quietly working each day to make a difference with local teens, Dana Kirkland has been identified as one of the City of Southlake’s Unsung Heroes.

Like the Little Engine That Could Veronica Lomas Keeps Moving Down the Track

Governments are well-known for generating piles of paperwork and maintaining thousands of records and public documents. This results in a mountain of information that someone must organize and properly manage. Fortunately for Southlake, Deputy City Secretary Veronica Lomas has stepped up to the challenge and keeps the document management program moving forward, no matter how difficult the terrain.

Veronica is responsible for managing a system to capture, track, store, and dispose of records. Each record has a life cycle, from creation to active document, to disposition. Working to ensure that Southlake is compliant with state law by meeting retention requirements, Veronica and department liaisons have the challenge of ensuring that paper and electronic documents are maintained efficiently and correctly secured.

“Since coming to Southlake, Veronica has worked with city departments on important projects to better manage documents,” said City Secretary Amy Shelley. “Her leadership to maximizing the use of Laserfiche has resulted in many of the city’s business functions becoming paperless, and great efficiency has been achieved. She is working hard to reduce manual tasks and improve our interaction with citizens.”

An example of a successful project includes digitization of a complex human resource process, open enrollment. Working with HR Business Partner Dylan Welch, efficiencies were gained as follows:

  • Use of paper was reduced from approximately 13,500 pieces of paper to 0.
  • Form distribution was reduced from approximately 12 hours to less than 30 minutes.
  • Employee election data entry process reduced from 40 hours to about two.
  • Data entry into enterprise software reduced from eight hours to about two.
  • Eliminated duplicate data entry, handwriting interpretation, improving accuracy.

Open enrollment is only one successful project. Other work has included digitizing the public safety personal history statements process, improving the City’s board and commission appointment process, vendor performance evaluations, and recreation incident reports.

Veronica and departmental partners have won awards and been recognized for their work by the DocuNav/Laserfiche User Group. This is because the Southlake team is viewed as role models for innovation and the documentable efficiency gains.

Veronica is fond of saying, “It takes a village” to achieve success, a humble expression of her commitment to work with city departments. And always optimistic, she sees plenty of

opportunity for the future – additional automated business processes, increased digitization, more efficient records management, reduced need for records storage, and better transparency.

When it comes to managing documents, Veronica’s know-how, commitment, and ability to work with others ensures that city business processes can be transformed into a successful digital experience.

Like the Little Engine that Could, Veronica just keeps chugging along, making progress day-by-day, driving innovation and efficiency all along the way. For her exceptional work, she is recognized as one of the City’s Unsung Heroes.

Serving Southlake: Navy Veteran Finds Success in Southlake Public Works

Honor. Courage. Commitment.

Before becoming the director of Public Works for the City of Southlake in 2016, Robert Cohen dedicated 20 years of service to the United States Navy – and brought its core values with him to serve Southlake.

Cohen has delivered services across the globe and continues to foster a culture of superior performance, customer service, accountability, and integrity with the 69 employees under his direction in Public Works.

“Having a career in Southlake means that I get to work alongside passionate professionals who have dedicated their lives to serving Southlake. I am truly honored and humbled to have the opportunity and privilege to work with, for and alongside dedicated teams of true professionals who bring their best to Southlake every day; at every event, for every reason and in any season,” stated Cohen.

Patriotism has laid the foundation for Cohen’s path to military service. Having grown up in a community near several major military installations and a military family, Cohen knew he wanted to become part of what he believed was a very elite organization comprised of disciplined individuals protecting freedom and democracy.

Cohen was commissioned in the Navy upon his college graduation and went on to hold roles in public works, program, asset and facilities management, and capital improvements within the Navy while achieving the rank of commander. He also obtained his professional engineer’s license, became a trained financial specialist, and was a member of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Acquisition Corps and a Certified DoD Level II Facility Engineer.

With military experiences as diverse as the positions he has held, a few notable examples include his accountability for a multi-million dollar global energy program, a sweeping shore installation reorganization that integrated 130+ full-time employees from three separate organizations, and resolution of an overseas drinking water treatment issue that ended up saving the Navy $4 million. Cohen also received a Letter of Commendation from the Navy’s senior legal service admiral for saving $200,000 associated with a courtroom renovation project.

Looking for more continuity and less change in his career, Cohen decided to step away from the military.

“I saw many commonalities between serving in the Navy and pursuing a municipal career. I felt that the transition would be somewhat easier if my new career would be similar to what I gravitated toward while in the military, such as public works, said Cohen. “I am a servant leader and wanted to serve a population in the many facets of public works, but on a much smaller scale. I enjoy serving people and if at all possible, working alongside others for a common cause.”

Now, as the director of Public Works for the City of Southlake, Cohen continues to use his extensive military experiences to deliver municipal services. He leads a department that provides public services through planning, engineering, constructing, inspecting, operating, and maintaining Southlake’s public infrastructure. At the helm of a department that manages a $40 million capital improvement program, he guides the oversight of numerous contracts for services as well as inter-local agreements and ensures the department’s responsibility for the environmental protection of the City’s creeks and streams.

“Leading a department responsible for mobility, construction, water, and sewer in the City can be stressful at times, but I imagine Rob’s rigorous military training is the reason why he has been able to stay calm and set priorities to accomplish big results,” said Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher.

Cohen is one of 35 military veterans employed by the City of Southlake. Veterans Day serves as a humble reminder to recognize and celebrate the brave men and women who have served our country.

“With more than 30 military veterans on our team, we fully appreciate the value they bring to Southlake,” stated City Manager Shana Yelverton. One of the best things about working with Rob and all of our veterans is their willingness to adapt to changing circumstances.”