The new broom
In March, Rich Lallier was appointed interim director of the St. Paul, Minn., Public Works Department after the previous director, Bruce Beese, resigned following a local television news report that showed department workers taking excessive breaks. Lallier is now the permanent Public Works Director, and he spoke with American City & County about the steps he has taken to restore the public’s faith in the department.
Q: What steps have you taken to change the culture in the department?
A: What I found is that most of the people in public works are hard working, they’re professional [and] they want to do what’s right for the residents they serve. But, what I did see was that there was a need to clearly communicate expectations, especially to the field divisions at the street level. So, some of the things I made sure happened were based around communicating some of these things: developing and implementing a clear break policy, because that was one of the issues that came up in the investigation, excessive use of breaks; having the people understand what the policy was and what the expectation was was very important. I’m now putting together policies that will be reviewed on an annual basis that all employees will sign off on annually so that we’re sure they understand what the expectations are for them.
Q: What can other public works directors learn from St. Paul’s situation?
A: What I would like to get across to directors is … go back out and talk to your staff. Talk to them about [whether there] are better ways, because knowing what’s going on helps you answer the questions when they come up. I would suggest that public works directors make sure that they know from the bottom up what’s going on [by] meeting and communicating with your employees.
- Listen to the full podcast, “St. Paul’s public works director improves communication,” with Rich Lallier.