Monday, November 28, 2022

Five Things The Community Services Department is Thankful For This Thanksgiving

The holiday season is finally here, and we can’t wait to ramp up the celebrations!

The City came together last weekend to celebrate Home for the Holidays and light up Town Square with holiday cheer. As Thanksgiving is this week, however, we didn’t want to let this crucial holiday pass without expressing our gratitude.

Here are five things we are thankful for this week:

Incredible Partners
Our mission is to create world-class experiences, and we couldn’t accomplish that without strong partnerships. Thank you to our volunteers, vendors, sponsors, board and commission members, athletic associations, and community services organizations that enhance the quality of our services every day. We’re grateful to you for sharing our mission and helping us meet it daily!

Beautiful Green Spaces
The holiday season is beautiful, but nothing beats having expertly planned and maintained public green spaces and parks. From the twinkling lights in Town Square to chilly walks in Bicentennial Park, November is a great month to get outside. Thank you to our Parks Division for your commitment to city-wide beautification all year round!

Serving our Community
Not everyone is lucky enough to get to do what they love for work every day. Parks and Recreation professionals have the privilege of dedicating their careers to promoting healthy habits, providing exciting recreational programming, and celebrating life’s most precious moments! We love working with our community, from Champions Club members to Senior Activity Center members, programs, and athletics participants! Thank you for your trust!

Supportive Teammates
Cliché as it sounds, teamwork, makes the dream work, and we have an incredibly supportive team in the Community Services Department. This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for co-workers who are always willing to lend a helping hand and make showing up to work fun every day!

Taking Time to Celebrate
Life moves by fast, so it’s essential to take the time to celebrate all occasions, big and small! We are grateful to celebrate this upcoming holiday as we continue to plan world-class holiday programs in the coming weeks. We hope our residents take the time to celebrate with their families and join us throughout the holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Community Services Department!


How A Dedicated Team Drives Values

A great team defines organizational values and helps others understand the goals and mission. The City of Southlake works diligently to implement the City’s goals and objectives with a commitment to integrity, innovation, accountability, commitment to excellence and teamwork!

So how does the City of Southlake approach the development of a great team to drive those values? Through proper training and recruitment, of course! The City wants their employees to make an impact. The culture is values-driven and the team is committed and dedicated to quality work and helping customers.

The City recruits top talent and encourages the current workforce to continue to develop their skill set.

“The heart of any successful organization is the staff,” Director of Human Resources Stacey Black said. “We want our employees to connect to the public and reinforce our values. A well-trained team will help us get there.”

The quality of service provided by the City to the customer depends upon the quality of the workforce; a well trained staff produces a more efficient workforce and improves customer satisfaction.

“The City’s goal is to “Serve Our Customers” and of course a team effort will go a long way,” said Black. “When you have a well-trained workforce of innovative thinkers with a commitment to excellence, it helps us solve problems efficiently and proactively.”

The City works diligently to implement new processes to help achieve these goals and has received notoriety for it.

Earlier this year, the City received a Laserfiche Run Smarter Award for restructuring the hiring process for police. By implementing the use of this software, the City reduced the testing notification wait time from 2-3 weeks to one day, saved 6.25 hours of staff time per testing cycle on administrative tasks and saved a total of $7,000 a year.

“The City was chosen based on creativity, operational improvements, use of Laserfiche software and resources and inspirational potential for other Laserfiche clients,” said Black. “We invite the use of any technology that may help us better serve our customers while making processes more efficient.”

The City also received the Tree City USA Award by the Arbor Day Foundation which also recertified the City as a designated 2018 Tree City USA community.

In order to receive such an honor the City had to meet the core standards of sound urban forestry management, which includes maintaining a tree board or department, establishing a tree ordinance  and spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry in addition to celebrating Arbor Day.

“The City’s Planning and Development Department goes above and beyond to ensure that the City manages urban forestry and upholds sustainable tree management. The City of Southlake has taken this award home 22 years in row and it’s all thanks to our dedicated employees,” Black said.

The City also enhances the sense of community by providing exceptional customer service and citizen engagement opportunities. This was the first year for the City to receive the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award for the most effective campaign $5,000 or less, in government.

“Southlake Department of Public Safety has an excellent way of using social media as a tool of community engagement with citizens. Their Facebook page is inviting, conversational and entertaining,” Black said. “The PRSA Sliver Anvil Award was a reminder that we are moving in the right direction and have the right people in place.”

The recognition the City has received is proof that hiring high-quality employees is leading the City to success.

“The quality of service provided by the City to the people of Southlake depends upon the quality of the City’s workforce. The City advocates for a highly-trained staff and promotes delivery of excellent customer service. In turn, this has created a dedicated culture to serve our community and also enhances service delivery and drives production,” Black said.




Southlake Water Utilities Serves Customers By Getting Things Done

In the old days, Kyle Flanagan couldn’t get a good night’s sleep in July and August. The water system was relatively new and hot-month, high demand meant he needed to monitor system data so water use didn’t overwhelm supply. This was especially true in early morning hours when irrigation systems kicked on.

With the buildout of the water system, things are a little easier, but Flanagan’s commitment remains steadfast.

“My goal is for our team to achieve great customer service through friendly, personal communication. We want our customers to receive the highest quality of drinking water possible,” says Flanagan.

Over the years, he’s proven that he’ll do what it takes to get the job done, not an easy task when 2.8 billion gallons of water are consumed in Southlake annually.

The system has steadily been improved, making its management less stressful. Over $41 million has been invested in water infrastructure in the past ten years, improving capacity and water quality. Additionally, the City has invested in technology to help pinpoint water leaks, and empower customers to monitor their own usage and costs.

“In 2015 we began our journey to implement a one of a kind program to equip all 10,000+ water meters with the latest cellular communications technology.” Flanagan proudly noted.

“BEACON Advanced Metering Analytics allows our utility to collect meter readings through the cellular network and provide customers with near real-time data on their consumption. Today, 100% of all water accounts are tied into this network at no additional cost,” he continued, pointing out that the cellular technology implementation is one of his team’s proudest accomplishments.

“All of the construction and technology projects, public information, and one-on-one contacts have been undertaken with one thing in mind,” said Director of Public Works Rob Cohen. “Kyle and his team are committed to providing outstanding service to our water utility customers.”

Flanagan, who has been known to visit with customers in their homes, sees the personal touch as an effective way for the City and water users to work together.

“He really cares about people and their situations, and he’s willing to go the extra mile to help,” said his supervisor Cristina McMurray. “The crew has great technical skills, but it’s their attention to the customer that sets them apart.”

Water customer Esther Spickler gives the team the ultimate compliment, “they are awesome!” The crew had noted a potential leak at a property she owns and reached out to the realtor whose name was on the “For Lease” sign. Not only did Ms. Spickler appreciate the communication effort, she worked with the team to shut off the water and meet her on site to discuss next steps. Spickler said, “It was to my relief, very quick and easy to accomplish.”

Southlake Water Utilities Operations Team (l to r): Tim Hackrott, Bobby Hardin,
David Chancey, Jason Camblin, Anthony Blain, Kyle Flanagan, Chad Henderson,
Andy Dumas, Kurt Long, Jerod Lawrence, Rudy Ramirez, and Greg Spinks

Flanagan’s crew works closely with strong partners in the Southlake Water Utilities (SWU) customer service office, led by Misty Knaust. The customer service team processes service applications; manages SWU billing; and troubleshoots customer issues.

Knaust agrees that technology upgrades have been instrumental in improving customer service. She has implemented a paperless environment, easing customer paperwork requirements and making information available electronically.

“Those who might be pressed for time find an easier and more productive process as we satisfy their immediate needs, in seconds, instead of hours,” said Knaust.

And she agrees with Flanagan that the cellular technology has been a game changer.

“Cellular connections and the easy-to-use Eye on Water application help customers successfully monitor their water usage,” she said. “It’s a great tool, and the staff is now able to reach out to customers as a courtesy, notifying them of a possible leak on their property as a proactive service we provide. Efficiency gains have also allowed us to provide an email notification to customers, when needed, to prevent possible disconnection.”

About 19% of Southlake customers are currently signed up to use the app, a number Knaust would like to see grow.

“We are proud of the customer service benefits this accomplishment has delivered,” she said.

Southlake’s Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson has praise for Knaust and her team, noting that “they manage the financial side of the business very well while working to ensure a great customer experience.”

Jackson cites Knaust’s leadership and appreciation of process improvement. “Using lean/six sigma techniques, they’ve been able to improve cycle times and customer satisfaction by critically evaluating what they do, and why.”

Water customers count on Southlake Water Utilities to provide them with safe and reliable drinking water. With Flanagan and Knaust leading the way, the water utilities staff teams are successfully delivering a high quality, high-value product…all while serving the customers with care and consideration.

Southlake Water Utilities Customer Service Team (l to r): DeeAnn Yates,
Cheryl Cooper, Kealoha Vaipulu, and Misty Knaust

City Recognizes Employees During Annual Awards Ceremony

It’s that time of year again to give a big shout out to all City of Southlake employees and employees who stood out in 2017.

The City of Southlake is hosting its annual employee appreciation celebration the week of February 12 -16 to show gratitude for the hard work that employees do each day. True to the Southlake Way motto, “We are world class professionals serving a world-class community,” the City is excited to host this annual event to recognize employee performance.

A dozen or so employees are being recognized for outstanding performance including; departmental Director’s Awards, the Kristin Pitzinger Customer Service Award and Value Superhero Awards.

All employees will be treated to special events and each department will host their own fun, spirit day to celebrate their employees. The City also presents each employee with a small City of Southlake logo gift as a token of their appreciation.

The leadership team would like to thank Southlake employees for their commitment to excellence and also give enthusiastic congratulations to all of this year’s award winners. Take a look at the stories of this year’s award winners. They are stories of dedication, and service to the City of Southlake residents.

Director’s Award recipients include:

Ashley Newhart for the Community Services Department, who is being recognized for her flexibility and dependability.  She is described as a go-to team member who always accepts a challenge, most recently as a key team member preparing for the opening of Champions Club at The Marq Southlake, and as a key leader for the LiveFit program. Known for being detail-oriented and someone who is always looking for ways to improve programs and services, Ashley’s Department Director Chris Tribble says simply, “I can always count on her.”

Chris Brown for the Fire Department, chosen for substantially impacting the efficiency and safety of the organization.  Chris is known for his strong work ethic and positive attitude, and above average work quality. Responsible for the department’s firefighting protective gear, and meeting regulatory requirements, he manages this important project in addition to his regular duties. “I appreciate his hard work and dedication,” said Fire Chief Michael Starr.  “The safety of our personnel is largely dependent on his work, and he quietly manages it extremely well.”

Preston Logan for the Police Department, whose knowledge of Police Department operations, passion for the job, great interpersonal skills, and sincere care for those he serves make him a stand out. He has a positive attitude and an infinite desire to learn, as well as a keen understanding of the complexity of his role as a law enforcement officer.  “Corporal Logan is an outstanding police officer who will tackle tough assignments, but he is also a caring person.  His compassionate service to the community makes him a stand out in our department,” said Police Chief James Brandon.

Misty Knaust for the Finance Department, an energetic and positive force who creatively and proactively implements processes and projects to better serve utility customers.  CFO Sharen Jackson considers Misty an invaluable member of the team and has noted that “Misty truly cares about her work, and it shows.  She routinely finds new and better ways of doing things and works cooperatively with her coworkers to make important improvements.  She is a hard worker, and a positive leader, someone who will make real and lasting impacts on the way we do business.”

Susie Hernandez for Planning & Development Services, an employee who performs her assigned duties very well because she possesses considerable knowledge of building codes and the department software used for this operation.  “She is a great resource for our department, and other city colleagues, a data guru who helps prepare reports and successfully implements projects,” said Ken Baker, senior director of planning & development services. “The list of accomplishments attributable to her is long and meaningful. She is a true professional and key component to the department’s success.”

Tarl Plank for the Public Works Department, considered by his peers and department leaders to be a man of “unwavering integrity.”  Tarl is a safety champion who takes care of important projects – such as installing valley gutters, placing asphalt, and modifying handicap ramps – with an eye for meeting customer expectations, managing his team with skill, and works with positivity. “I appreciate Tarl so much,” Public Works Director Rob Cohen said. “He has a strong moral compass and works hard. He’s an outstanding employee.”

Jintana Jones for the Administration Department, recognized as a strong performer with an even temperament, who gets the job done all the while smiling and encouraging her co-workers. Overseeing the front office of the City Manager’s Office, including the switchboard operations, requires skills and patience, which Jintana has in abundance.  And she recently took on additional responsibilities supporting economic development efforts. “Jintana is, in a word, wonderful,” said Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski.  “She works incredibly well with the public because she is a good listener, and so intelligent. Her willingness to work on anything that needs to be done makes her a real asset to us, and to the community.”

Recipients of The Kristin Pitzinger Customer Service Award Include:

Internal:  Jacob Goodsell from the Public Works Department (Facilities Management), who cheerfully goes about his day doing anything that is needed to keep Town Hall looking good and functioning well.  “If you need help with anything at all, Jacob is there with a smile and helpful hands,” said Stacey Black, human resources director. “He graciously serves the employees who work in Town Hall, as well as visitors. It’s not uncommon to see him holding doors open, giving directions, or laughing with someone. We really value him.”

External:  Seantay Carpenter from Planning & Development Services (Code Enforcement) whose ready smile and even-temperament make him ideal for the job responsibilities he handles.  “There aren’t enough good words to describe Seantay’s attitude,” said Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher.  “He has a tough job, but you’d never know it.  He handles his duties with class and grace and supports his co-workers unconditionally. We’re proud of him, and appreciate his strong customer service.”

Superhero Value Awards recipients include:

Integrity:  Jason Arrellano from the Public Works Department, who regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty to make needed sewer system repairs and maintain the system.  He does whatever it takes to get the job done, whenever needed. He is known for “doing the right thing.”

Innovation: Stacy Wells from the Library who energetically brings new ideas to serve the youth department and Southlake’s young children.  With strong demand for these services, more than 65% of the Library’s overall demand is attributable to youth services, Stacy is going constantly.  But she creatively implements new programs and services to keep things fresh and new, regularly thinking outside the box.

Accountability: Daniel Ford from the IT Department is widely recognized as a go-to guy, bringing his know-how, strong work ethic, and kindness to each and every project or problem.  He is widely respected for his ability to get the job done with professionalism and competence, as well as for his sincere care and concern for those he serves. Daniel is known for taking ownership of his assignments, relentlessly pursuing solutions.

Commitment to Excellence: Andy Alvarado from the Community Services Department, is an employee known for working hard and making City parks beautiful and ensuring they are clean. Citizen survey data regularly shows an appreciation for the appearance of parks and open spaces.  Andy and his crew anticipate the needs of park patrons and go above and beyond to ensure that expectations are exceeded.

Teamwork: Thomas Roberson from the Police Department, a detective who has a strong desire to assist others.  He has patience and investigative thoroughness, a good fit for working crimes against persons cases.  He will do whatever is needed to help his co-workers but is also known for working closely with neighboring police departments to develop leads and coordinate investigative efforts. He recognizes the importance of working together to successfully prosecute cases

Be sure to take a moment to congratulate the award winners when you see them and again congratulations to everyone for their hard work this past year.