This is the third of a four part series on local government mentorship.
MEET A MENTOR: Heather Geyer
Heather Geyer has been working in local government since the start of the 2000s and currently serves as the Administrative Services Director for the City of Wheat Ridge, CO. Geyer cares strongly about the professional development of her staff, which becomes evident in her management style. She also works to support the advancement of women in local government by leading the efforts of Colorado Women Leading Government. In this interview, Geyer describes how mentors benefit from the professional relationship just as much as mentees.
Angelica:Why is mentorship important?
Heather Geyer: I don’t know what life would be like without mentors. [On second thought] I do actually – life would be lonely, dull, uneventful and you would have to figure out all of your problems on your own. In this field, it is important that you have a support system of individuals who understand what it means to work in local government firsthand. Mentors provide an understanding that family members - even spouses - cannot provide. Mentors speak our language.
Who has been a mentor in your own life? What did they do for you?
My first internship boss, Michelle Kivela, Deputy Town Administrator for Parker, is a friend and a mentor. She has stood by me when times have been tough and has been there to celebrate the good times. I know I can count on her for advice when I need it. Our Police Chief Dan Brennan is also one of my mentors. I usually check in with him when I need to vent or run a personnel issue by someone. He is a great listener and he can provide a valuable perspective based on knowing the organization and the challenges we have here.
Why have you decided to take on a mentor role?
I have a coaching and mentoring management style, so I think mentorship is natural for me. I truly enjoy mentoring! I consider it a learning opportunity for me as much as my mentee. We all have unique gifts and talents to offer our communities. I like to think we are all a work in progress, and mentors help you realize your potential!
One professional I spent time mentoring (outside of local government) went through a stretch of job changes because she was really dissatisfied with work in the private sector. She kept selling herself short and applying for jobs that she was overqualified for. I had an opportunity to ask her probing questions and help her recognize what she is really passionate about. Continuing to seek jobs in the private sector was not going to bring her the sense of fulfillment she was looking for. She found a position with a nonprofit, and she is really happy.
What's one career/life lesson you've learned that you'd like to share with others?
Don’t compare yourself to others. I think it is important to look to others to see what opportunities exist to better yourself as a professional and overall as a person. But there is absolutely not one formula for what a career in local government looks like. I think graduate programs often do a disservice to emerging professionals when they come fresh out of graduate school and feel pressure to become a city manager or assistant city manager right away. Some professionals are called to this immediate path and I think that is great. However, I spend so much time talking to emerging professionals and reassuring them that they are at a good place in their careers. If we focus too much on that next big title, we can often miss great opportunities right in front of us! I take the perspective that I want to enjoy the ride.