Ah, the wonderful adventures of retired life. All you have to do is make sure you get the few things done around the house that need to be done, run some errands like grocery shopping, do a favor or two for the kids, bounce the grandkids off the ceiling a time or two, or maybe volunteer your time to do some work for the International Parking Institute (IPI).
Then you get THE PHONE CALL. “Hey, Doug, can we meet for lunch?” Sounds pretty innocent until at lunch you find out that your counterpart in the neighboring municipality is leaving his post as parking manager on fairly short notice and would you be willing to help with the transition to the new manager? The big tip-off should have been when I showed up for an interview, nicely groomed, in a suit with resumes and recommendations in-hand, and the first question I heard was, “When can you start?”
I figured what the heck, I have been pretty successful on a university campus for more than 30 years, past chairman of the IPI Board of Directors, and had to deal with 45,000 students, 18,000 parking spaces, 4 parking garages, 15,000 employees, my own staff of about a dozen direct reports, and goodness only knows how many visitors. How could dealing with the parking problems in such a bucolic municipality as State College, Penn., be much different?
The operative word there is “municipality.” I truly thought that at Penn State, I was in the public sector. I guess the answer is, sort of but not really. I know there are some exceptions where an individual state retains the right to set fees, fines, and so forth. But that was my world.
In a municipal setting, unless you have an authority (and maybe then as well) everything turns on the borough code of ordinances. Parking probably cannot just make a change to the application of policy. Once you have convinced the professional staff of a potential change, you must convince the elected officials that what you want to do will have a positive effect on the community. This was a major paradigm shift for me.
I must mention that even though there are a lot of differences between one side of College Avenue (the main dividing line between town and gown) and the other, there are a ton of similarities as well. Basic tactics and equipment are the same. The eleventh amendment to the Constitution, “The right to keep and bear an automobile shall not be abridged,” applies here also. Software may or may not be identical, but the areas of control and logic are very similar. Of course, I could be an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but the political differences between the two jurisdictions are huge.
The change has been significant. I have been rewarded as my abilities have been stretched and many new experiences added. There are times when an oddball idea generated by my academic past rolls around and gains traction in the borough. My different experiences and point of view have been of value here. I am very happy to say that I am still learning and this gig has definitely reinvigorated me. Thanks, State College!
I have been blessed with a very intelligent, imaginative, can-do staff and the phenomenal support of other departments within the borough from the borough manager through the HR director and IT department, down to my own assistants—it’s been marvelous and rewarding. The package of benefits is also very nice. However, I retired for a reason and that is why I have the word “Interim” in front of the title Parking Manager. I started on Sept. 2, 2014, and will be here until the new Parking Czar is in place. By the way, applications are being accepted until Feb. 28.
Be well, and looking forward to seeing you all in Las Vegas for the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo.