Member Profile: Jerene Watson
Assistant Town Manager
Town of Oro Valley

Where are you originally from?
My birthplace was Oklahoma City and I was raised in Kansas City until third grade when my parents moved to Phoenix. I gained the best of both worlds - a midwesterner from the heartland, and nearly "Arizona native!" I lived away from Arizona for some years, but moved back permanently in 1994 and always called Arizona home.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in local government?
I grew up planning to serve others on a mission field, but actually started my career in business and got my undergraduate degree in that. It was my first job in the public sector when I knew this is where I belonged and felt comfortable serving. I was in my thirties at the time, so when I pursued my master's degree later, the obvious path was to get an MPA. I moved through various levels of government before making it to local government. Once here, I knew this was what I loved best--the immediacy and delivery of services working with residents where you could see the end results much of the time.
What do you like most about your job?
One of the best things about my job is the dynamic environment, helping people to understand their government and getting them involved in it in some productive way. I enjoy tackling challenges together with citizens, staff or Councilmembers, whether they are with you or against an issue. It is rewarding to watch when, setting politics aside, if they become engaged and are open to learning or new understanding, they often end in a different place or celebrate the outcome with you.
What areas of local government interest you the most?
I love it all and find the full spectrum of operations quite interesting - never a dull day working internally or externally to the organization. It is exciting and rewarding. Best of all, it's an opportunity of giving back through hard work, often long hours, but making a difference in some way within communities, neighborhoods or for an individual, which is a reward money cannot provide. The team work essential in local government makes it appealing.
As a local government professional, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
Accomplishment? Starting a new department from the ground floor with no employees and developing it to a full service department with the help of a great group of seasoned professionals. Each division offered a service capacity and resource that had not been in the city before they came on board. Several award-winning programs were created by the talented people I worked along side. New and long-term residents became engaged in their local government, with four of them eventually winning seats on City Council and others serving on boards and commissions within the city because of educational opportunities we created for them to grow and get involved.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
There are many pieces of good advice I've been given throughout my career, and some of the best from city managers here in Arizona. But I'd have to say some of the most practical and useable thoughts and tools I've picked up were in the book, "It's Your Ship: Management Techniques From the Best Damn Ship in the Navy" by Michael Abrashoff, which I read a couple years ago at the urging of Goodyear's Fire Chief. It's a great guide book on leadership and management all in one easy read. If you really practice what he writes about, the positive results will follow. I heard him speak a year later at the ICMA conference and found him as engaging as his book, which I strongly recommend.
Arizona City/County Management Association
1820 W. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: (602) 258-5786
Fax: (602) 253-3874
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