In my mind, fall marks the end of the year for Parks and Recreation. It’s a time to celebrate the fact that we have survived another summer and the fun and challenges it brought. It is also project season and a transition period for us to winterize the parks and put everything to bed for the winter. There is still plenty to do in the fall and fewer people to do it since all the young people who have helped us all summer long are now back in school and moving on with their lives. We really enjoy the seasonal staff that work here every year, and it is quite satisfying to see them come back for a few consecutive seasons as they work toward their future goals and dreams. I love it when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a long time and they say, “Wow it’s so good to see you—some of my best memories are from when I worked for Parks and Rec!” We all work hard, and we have fun while we do it. We try very hard to provide a quality workplace where folks can learn a new skill, work as a team, and learn how to contribute to the overall morale of the staff while providing a good service for the community. Every spring I interview people for the various seasonal positions we have here, and I always tell them that we can teach them almost anything they need to know about how to do this job. However, there are a few things that we will NOT take the time to teach and expect them to bring to the table. First: you have to show up on time. We are not going to come looking for you; it is your responsibility to be organized with your time and that starts with knowing your schedule and getting yourself to work. Secondly: we expect you to be safe. We will teach you some specific things about how to be safe while working, but it is your responsibility to use good common sense and look out for yourself, those you are working with, and the general public. Thirdly: we expect you to have a good attitude every moment of every day you work here. We pay for smiles! I tell every young person I hire that neither us nor the general public could care less how “cool” you are. I don’t know of a single person who would choose to work with a talented, skilled jerk over a kind, teachable person. We all recognize the fact that we are being paid by the taxpayer and they expect us to serve them, beginning with how we interact with them. Everyone deserves a smile and that is something each of us can choose to give someone else. Some employers I have spoken to tell me that it is a pretty tall order to find young people these days that meet these expectations. I suppose in general that might be the case; however, we seem to consistently find some really great young people every year. They come to us; we don’t tend to have to go looking very far. Over the years, I have learned a few things that seem to keep the good ones coming back and new ones getting in line early. So many employers who hire young people (or adults for that matter) in a temporary job, view them as dispensable. There is almost no effort or money put into training them or providing personal development or skill development because it is viewed as a loss if they are not going to be around very long. I get it—training can be expensive. One thing you need to realize however, is that young people are sponges; they learn very fast and remember what you taught them. What would take you or I two hours to learn and then forget the next day, they can get in a matter of minutes. That’s a good investment friends! When you invest in people you do two things at once: you increase the level of skill your people have and you instill in them a sense of value and responsibility. If you demonstrate to them that they are a valuable member of the team, they will go from seeing their job as a list of chores that they have to get done, to taking ownership and responsibility over their job. They go from checking boxes to offering solutions to problems. That bring me to my next point. If you look at any job, what is the difference between the person who makes the least amount of money verses the one who makes the most? Decision making abilities. I just heard Dave Ramsey say, “Leaders aren’t born, they are developed”. It is important that even the person on the bottom rung of the ladder is given an opportunity to make decisions. You start with things that don’t have catastrophic impacts and move up from there. Open up your mind to the possibility that young people can be very responsible if given the opportunity to be so. If they feel the full weight of the responsibility, that has a profound effect on the decisions they make. If you shelter them from the consequences of their decisions, you will have major trouble. Finally, keep little issues little and don’t be passive. I have never encountered anything more destructive in the workplace than festering little issues that turn into big ones. They will grow and they will explode all at once at the worst possible time. We are all people, and where there are people, there are problems. It takes a constant watchful eye to make sure this disease doesn’t take over the workplace. It has the potential of taking out your entire team faster that you realize. People deal with conflict in all sorts of ways but there is one that is especially poisonous. When people shut down and are unusually withdrawn and solemn, this is a time to press in. In many cases, people just need to know that you care about them and they want someone to listen to them. If you take the time to listen, you can also find out about those “little” issues and take action to resolve them. There are times that you must remove the poison before It spreads through the staff. This is never an enjoyable experience, but for the sake of a healthy workplace this is sometimes necessary. People need a vision to believe in, others to believe in them, and a process to help them be successful. Value and worth have little to do with a paycheck. I’ve consistently seen people clean gross restrooms, empty fish guts out of garbage cans, dig ditches through the muck, and laugh about it and call it fun when they feel part of the team. We have a wonderful community, quality Board of Directors, and rock solid staff. We love you, Prineville, and it is our privilege to serve you.