Staff Spotlight: Clarence Monday
As I did some background research for our next Staff Spotlight on Clarence Monday, I came across the predictable accolades one sees in media coverage of a local government administrator’s retirement. Pittsylvania County’s at-the-time Board of Supervisors Chairman, Jessie Barkdale, praised Clarence as a “true professional” who had “performed exceptionally”. He was even welcomed to be a part of the hiring process for his replacement – an opportunity seldom extended to a departing manager, yet a testament to the reputation that Clarence Monday had earned over a robust, 30+ year career in public service.
However, Clarence’s track to becoming the Berkley Group’s newest member of the Executive Transition Assistance staff started unlike other managers – at the age of 19 as a deputy in the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. Clarence spent 7 years there, telling me that this first job was “on the front lines of public service”.
Clarence’s dedication to public safety extended outside the office, too – as a fire & rescue volunteer. Clarence told me this was truly where his heart was, so I wasn’t surprised when he told me about the transfer he made to the county’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) to become an EMS Coordinator. Following five years with Henry County DPS, Clarence joined the City of Martinsville Fire & EMS as a firefighter and was eventually promoted to Fire Chief.
In 2007, Martinsville’s City Council was seeking a new City Manager, and they hired from within by promoting…the fire chief? Clarence explained to me that the Council had prioritized knowledge of the local issues, and relationships with neighboring jurisdictions, as the primary qualities they needed in a new City Manager. On those two fronts, Clarence stood above the entirety of the applicant pool.
Clarence was open with me about the challenges he faced in his first management post. New managers with more conventional career paths, such as a budget or finance analyst, have inherent advantages in transitioning to their first executive position. Clarence didn’t have these advantages, so he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He spoke to me about diligently learning, from top to bottom, the functions of each Martinsville department. He spent time with his managers, listening to their needs. He strategically planned with them to highlight organizational issues.
He also learned quickly how he could act as a link between the City Council and the departments. He helped his management team to better understand the concerns of the Council, and for Council to understand what the City was doing about their concerns.
I wanted to know Clarence’s secrets for productive council/manager relationships. He says it’s important to dedicate quality time toward forging individual relationships with each elected official he serves. He told me how important it was to get to know them personally and professionally. Through breakfasts, lunches, or even visits to their homes, Clarence can understand their key issues and what it takes to resolve them to better the community.
Clarence puts a premium on communication with elected leaders. He diligently kept the Martinsville City Council informed of critical matters, ensuring that morning newspaper headlines were never surprises. He elevated listening to the same importance. Clarence explained to me that a master listener can pick up what’s really being said in an exchange, identify what’s not being said, and why.
With 30 years of experience to draw upon, I was keenly interested in hearing his insights on today’s trends. Clarence’s career has included management positions with a town, a city, and two counties, where he assisted each with weathering the aftershocks of the Great Recession. He told me that local government has to do so much more now with less, and that today’s economic realities demand this approach. However, he opposes cuts to investments in the local government’s workforce. Many jurisdictions had to reduce their staffs 10 years ago, and these reductions disproportionately impacted deputy managers and assistant directors. Now that those roles are being filled again, localities must act to ready their future managers with the training and leadership to be successful on Day 1.
Clarence stressed the need for today’s managers to get information into the hands of the public on a timely basis. He praised the modern social media tools now available to keep citizens informed on budget matters, long-range planning projects, and other strategic initiatives.
We couldn’t be happier to have Clarence aboard as part of our Executive Transition Assistance Staff. Clarence’s entire career has spanned a lifetime of commitment to good governance. His diverse experience makes him an excellent fit for any jurisdiction needing immediate, veteran leadership to solve problems and seize opportunities.