Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein and her husband, Gary, who is interim vice president of student affairs at Wright State University, came here on a five- year plan.
That was 25 years ago and Dickstein, who recently marked the first anniversary of her appointment as the city’s top administrator, has spent more than 20 years in city administration and economic development. Dickstein, who previously served as interim city manager, oversees the city’s $600 million budget and 1,900 employees.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishment since being named city manager?
The first thing I wanted to do was make sure employees understood that there was someone in that corner office in City Hall that really was listening to them, trying to communicate in a transparent manner, being accessible and really trying to engage with them. I’m really proud of all of the communication and being accessible and making sure the employees had the opportunity to share their concerns and perspectives.
We’re really working to change the culture around customer services so regardless of where you intersect with the city of Dayton you have an excellent customer-service experience. We’re not there yet. It is a culture change that obviously takes time to work on but we’ve been laying the foundation.
What are the city’s economic development priorities for 2017?
We want to focus on how we drive development and investment strategically into some of our neighborhoods and particularly in the West Dayton area. We have development strategy where we work with the major stakeholders in the neighborhoods to try and identify what the common issues are, how to address them and how do we pull resources together to have bigger impact.
These are marathons. It didn’t take us a year to get where we are and it will take more than a year to have some movement. We’ve focused on 18 neighborhoods that run along the historic west Third corridor from Wright Dunbar all the way out to the VA campus. We’re working on identifying funding and leveraging the investment to really drive investment into our neighborhoods.
How did you get interested in government administration?
My first professional job was in college student affairs. I was a hall director along with my husband at Sam Houston State in Texas and San Diego State in California. My husband ended up at Wright State and I decided to pursue a master’s degree in public administration at Wright State. I really fell in love with urban development and started with the city as a mid-management person working on downtown development and leading some of our leadership programs. I never set out to be city manager. My family teased me about it, but I said, “I’ll never be city manager!” Well, never say never because you don’t know what will happen.
How do you spend time away from City Hall?
I do a lot of walking and cycling because it’s really good stress relief. I enjoy reading and movies and I putter around with arts and crafts and scrapbooking. I do that stuff because it’s much more concrete and I can get it done in a weekend.
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