HUDSON -- Teamwork is being emphasized by city staff to tackle some of its major projects for 2017.
Council Jan. 17 unanimously approved a motion that Council concur with City Manager Jane Howington's recommendation to appoint Thomas J. Sheridan as the assistant city manager engineer for Hudson. Salary information wasn't available at press time.
"We have every confidence in him," said Council member Alex Kelemen. "It's a good move for the city."
"I was on Council when Mr. Sheridan joined the city [staff]," said Mayor David Basil. "In my entire experience, he is an exemplary professional. I have enjoyed all the years I worked with him."
Sheridan has been Hudson's city engineer since 2008. Previously he worked from 1990 to 1995 as a private consultant, and from 1995-2008 he was Stow's assistant engineer and assistant service director.
In March 2015 Howington appointed Frank Comeriato as assistant city manager for operations. Comeriato previously served as public works director and oversaw all divisions of public works, including Hudson Public Power, public properties and water and sewer.
Sheridan will oversee engineering and community development while Comeriato oversees public works services, utilities and park/golf/cemeteries, said Communications Manager Jody Roberts.
In 2015 when Summit County Department of Environmental Services took over the city's sewer operations, Comeriato said sewer employees were being trained for other departments and the public works department was being reorganized and cross-trained for more efficiency.
City Manager Jane Howington said the two are empowering employees to think about the way things were done and challenge the process to change or make it more efficient.
Utilizing cross-departmental teams
The two assistant city managers will work to promote cross-departmental teams.
"Since Jane came on board, she has been a strong advocate of creating cross-departmental teams to help break down some of the traditional department silos that often prevent some of the best ideas and solutions from coming forward," Roberts said.
Howington began creating teams with members from different departments to tackle issues and initiatives that range from technology and growth management to purchasing, public works and customer service, Roberts said.
"For example, a team was created to address the implementation of Downtown Phase II, which includes members from departments that wouldn't traditionally be considered to be involved in the downtown," Roberts. "These include engineering, communications, EMS, parks, economic development and community development."
Bringing in other departments brings new ideas and new perspectives to a project and promotes teamwork, Roberts said.
"We also found that once employees saw the first few teams and the results, many were asking how they could become involved in a team," Roberts said. "Now, we have cross-departmental teams for most major initiatives throughout the organization."
Sheridan said through cross-training of staff, engineering helps to back up Council clerk duties now, instead of hiring an additional part-time or full-time employee to cover the position. In addition, engineering helps to back up the finance staff with purchases and other duties to reduce operating costs.
"CD [community development] and engineering have worked most recently on a new permit software program to make the permit process more streamlined, efficient and user friendly for the staff and public, which increases productivity and allows staff to perform other more important tasks," Sheridan said.
Over the past several years the city staff has been actively engaged in looking at Hudson city services from a continuous improvement perspective, Comeriato said.
"That is to say, how can we as an organization improve how we do our work and conduct city business in ways that benefit and improve the experiences of Hudson residents and businesses?" Comeriato said.
Part of that answer was to use staff talents from multiple departments to develop improved services and participate in the planning processes for city projects, Comeriato said.
"The game changer was pulling staff into diverse teams for many of the city's current and future projects," Comeriato said. "This approach has resulted in a much more collaborative experience in making key decisions and moving projects forward more efficiently."
In addition, a second and important outcome has been the interaction and cooperation of city staff which has proven to have strengthened the organization, Comeriato added.
"New ideas and viewpoints that increase morale and reduce costs are the two main benefits," Sheridan said. "New technologies that other staff members may not use or be aware of, allows a larger pool of ideas."
Pulling together diverse cross departmental teams has many benefits, Comeriato said.
"We have seen that employee morale is heightened through meaningful participation," Comeriato said. "The team approach gives all staff the opportunity to be involved."
Communities, when possible, should use this approach, since funding from the state and federal level is being cut, Sheridan said. This is one way it helps the community reduce the overall operating costs, without negatively affecting the processes, with no increase in local taxes.
"We also review staff, potential savings and make decisions that will help us to provide the best service to the public," Sheridan said.
Comeriato recommends that not just government operations, but all organizations consider cross-training.
"Take the time to look at their people and their processes and ask how they might provide better customer service and deliver top rate projects by pulling together diverse cross departmental service and project teams," Comeriato said.