City of Topeka Year-End Review
TK: What did you cross off your 2013 to do list?
COLSON: We needed to stop defining ourselves as “governmental entity ” and embrace the concept of being a “high-performance service delivery vehicle.” This demands an increased focus on consistently applied customer service.
The thing that kept me up at night was getting control of the city budget. We have worked diligently to identify ways to contain costs and enhance revenues while remaining focused on meeting the reasonable expectations of our residents. We have strategically reduced expenditures and refinanced debt to ensure that we managed the city’s fund balance in a manner that would allow us to regain the confidence of the rating agencies. This task is a long way from over, but we have made significant progress.
I began restructuring our team with a focus on improving outcomes, accountability and performance. My goal from a leadership perspective was to build a strong foundation of leadership centered in a diverse group of individuals who share my vision for the future of this community, have the technical skills to achieve operational success, and understand that they are accountable.
I have worked with elected officials on our major priority of building better relationships with neighborhoods through code review and our new neighborhood relations program.
A point of pride for me in the last year has been the design and implementation of the citizen participation process for land development projects. The process requires potential developers to host neighborhood information meetings and report full documentation of the public’s input to the City.
TK: What was on your to do list for 2013 that still needs more work?
COLSON: Exciting things are still ahead in 2013, including the unveiling of Topeka e311, that allows citizens to ask questions, request services, report problems and access a complete knowledgebase online or via mobile device.
We are still working on the implementation of a pay-by-phone system for water bill utility statements to increase efficiency and ease for customers.
We are laying the groundwork for a comprehensive review of the City’s pay practices and labor policies. This is an effort that has never before been undertaken in the City of Topeka, and we believe it’s another step in (1) becoming a competitive employer, (2) a fiscally responsible governmental entity and (3) a high-performance organization.
TK: Big plans for 2014?
COLSON: The 2014 list is long and ever expanding. The priority is to continue to build people’s confidence and trust in their city government.
We will continue to enhance the leadership team. The number one priority is a senior executive to manage finance and administrative services.
The City will take a more active role in economic development through support of the existing GO Topeka model and in other manners as appropriate. Attracting new businesses downtown and redevelopment of underperforming properties throughout the community will be a priority.
Improving quality of life, enhancing property values and addressing crime concerns in neighborhoods is going to receive a lot of attention in the next year under the new Neighborhood Relations program.