- Published: April 4, 2019
Elke Doom is a career public sector manager with more than 25 years of broad municipal experience in Michigan, West Virginia and North Carolina. Most recently, Elke has been the City Manager for the City of Valdez, Alaska, since February of 2017.
Elke is described as enthusiastic, motivated and energetic. She has demonstrated experience in building strong relationships in diverse communities and enjoys forming partnerships with those who want to make a positive impact. She is focused on strategic partnerships with schools, business expansion and retention and collaboration with community stakeholders.
Elke earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and master’s degree in public administration from Siena Heights University. She is also a certified public manager through Saginaw Valley State University. In addition, she is a graduate of the senior executives in state and local government program, at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
She currently serves as an executive board member of the Alaska Municipal Managers Association and is President of the Prince William Sound Economic Development District.
Elke and her husband Bruce have three grown daughters.
Question1: Describe your experiences related to planning, budgeting and managing day-to-day operations of a government agency or as an executive in the private sector.
One of the key responsibilities of a city manager is to plan and implement the city’s annual budget. The purpose of budgeting is to ensure that spending follows a plan, supports business objectives, stays within preset limits, and does not exceed available funds. I work closely with the finance director and individual departments to provide a balanced budget to bring before council each year for review, discussion and adoption. Once projects and initiatives are funded, they are implemented in a timely and efficient manner.
I review monthly budget reports to ensure that the budget remains balanced, while working closely with our departments, stakeholders and partners in a variety of areas including investment strategies to maximize revenue for the city, seeking grants and loan opportunities for infrastructure improvements and expansion.
I hold weekly meetings with department directors in a team environment discussing direction, projects, timelines and issues that may arise.
In addition, the budget is continuously evaluated for its effectiveness in attaining the organization’s stated goals and objectives. Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) updates are provided to council on a quarterly basis and 5-year CIP plan is annually updated.
Question 2: Give examples of how you have fostered inclusion and acceptance and embraced diversity in your current and previous positions.
In order to embrace diversity and foster inclusion, one must understand that people innately have bias that can shape behaviors toward others who are different from them, be it diverse cultures, orientation, races, gender or religious beliefs.
As a first generation American, I experienced cultural differences and have been well aware of my own as an immigrant. I learned from an early age the positive outcomes from leveraging diversity and integrated that knowledge in my career. I strive to foster diversity and inclusion where all people feel valued and respected by being culturally competent. Sharing my experiences and encouraging others to share their own while embracing and respecting each person’s uniqueness brings awareness of the commonalities that we all share.
To better understand perceived bias in the workplace, I have reached out to local non-profits to assist in municipal recruitment and through employee engagement surveys to gain perspective on how employees view management’s efforts to address diversity and inclusion.
I’ve also mentored high potential employees to develop a future pool of leaders that are representative of the cultural and ethnic makeup of the community.
Question 3: How do you view the role of policing in a community and what ideas or practices would you bring to the running of the police department?
Community partnerships are absolutely critical in order for community policing efforts to be effective. Partnerships with business groups, schools, faith-based organizations, neighborhood groups and social service providers create a powerful team of effective partners that can work together in meaningful ways to prioritize and address safety issues that are important to the community. The goal is to improve public safety, build positive relationships and be an effective catalyst for community engagement. I believe the most transformative aspect of community policing has been proactive, creative problem solving among officers and community members to identify the cause of problems and how best to address them. Problem-oriented policing efforts have a significant impact on improving public safety, and using today’s technology to broadcast timely crime alerts is an effective safety tool.
Question 4: What are your leadership and management styles?
My leadership style is one of flexibility and adaptability. I delegate when it is appropriate, work to build consensus when needed and work side by side when needed. I am a person that employees know they can depend on to guide, mentor and provide leadership by example.
I am an open, straight-forward communicator. When possible, I like to communicate directly with people but, depending on the situation, I use several forms of communication, including texting, email and phone calls and messaging.
I do not have one management style. I believe my success as a manager is being able to adapt my style to the employee and to the situation. I need to be flexible and recognize that not every employee needs the same management style for every -situation.
Question 5: Discuss your experiences in retaining, growing or enhancing business.
Valdez is overly reliant on a declining oil distribution pipeline as its primary tax base. Below are a few examples of projects underway to retain, enhance and grow business.
The goal of “Connecting Alaska to the World” business development summit this September is to attract new business to the Shipping Container Terminal. Various presentation tracks will be presented, and lead survey forms will be supplied for follow-up post-event. In addition, the event will provide an opportunity to extend the booking/sales season for local tour operators and fishing charters.
Working with a seafood processor to lease/purchase city land for expansion in 2018 doubled the seasonal workforce and added additional year-round employees. 2019 will see another expansion as the seafood processor will build a new fish oil processing plant.
To increase tourism and encourage people to extend their visit, an expanded event schedule of outdoor music venues, vendor markets and special events will occur every weekend providing additional entertainment and shopping opportunities for residents and guests.
Successful marketing efforts to major cruise lines will bring an estimated 10,000 guests to dock in Valdez this summer. The influx is met with both trepidation and excitement as business owners gear up to open new and expand their existing businesses to accommodate the increase in tourism.
Question 6: How will you engage with the public to keep citizens informed and to get feedback on your plans and activities?
Citizen engagement is a continuous process whereby the community works together to make a difference in the life of their community through involvement, dialogue and feedback from government decisions. Setting up a microphone at a council meeting or asking for feedback via a government email is still a method of engagement. However, we have changed the meaning of citizen engagement in today’s digital world, which is changing how conversations are happening. As people increasingly turn to mobile phones, computers and tablets for information and input we have to shift our processes to engage and collaborate with our citizens through social media, whether through the city website, Facebook, Twitter or other channels. It is important that we earn trust and credibility through open and respectful communication as part of the engagement process.