I have often said that Marysville has one of the best city staffs I have ever seen — from the city manager to the summer worker who took time to explain exactly what he was doing in the park, why he was doing it and how it would benefit the users. (His name was Noah Arbogast, and while he does not work for the city any longer, if you know him, thank him!)
But good employees don’t just happen. It starts at the top and it starts with good hires.
There has been a lot of praise for the city’s HR department — finding a very qualified finance director, negotiating fire and police contracts in-house, solid participation in a good wellness program. But I witnessed an incident that doesn’t make headlines, but is exactly the kind of thing that shows why good people want to come work for HR Director Brian Dostanko.
At a meeting last month, a woman addressed council. She became emotional when she was talking about the future of her neighborhood. She was not kind to the city and some of her comments could have been viewed as unfair.
Even so, Dostanko left his seat near the back of the room, found tissues and quietly took them to the woman.
As I watched, it struck me that this is what servant leadership should look like. It wasn’t a big, bold gesture. It was not flashy in the least. There is no pay bump or promotion for this type of thing. It’s not something that can be quantified in a competition for a Fitbit or iPad. It’s not something that fits nicely into a set of performance goals.
And yet, actions like this tell you something about a person. I often judge people by how they treat people they don’t need to be nice to.
It is very easy to be nice to people you think can help you. It’s easy to act kind when you know you are on display. It is very easy to post photos of yourself acting like a good person on Facebook.
But what words do you use when you are anonymous? How do you treat the folks that pick up after you, and never say a word? How do you respond to the urge to push someone down in order to lift yourself up?
In a world where the idea of servant leadership is a good tagline as part of a mudslinging, name-calling political campaign, but has little practical use beyond that, it is refreshing to see someone model it the way Dostanko did.
It is little wonder he recognizes good employees when he sees them and even less of a mystery why they recognize him as someone they want to work for.
-Mac Cordell is a reporter for the Journal-Tribune.
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