Meet the new guy: New Goldsboro city manager Scott Steven starts work Monday
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on August 7, 2011 12:24 AM
Scott Stevens says that if you were to ask his mother, she would tell you how surprised she was at where he ended up.
It's not that she never thought Stevens had the potential to lead a city -- it's just that he was always quiet and reserved.
"I'm not sure how it evolved," Stevens says. "I knew in college I wanted to be good at speaking in front of crowds because I saw other people who were good at it, but I just wasn't."
Specializing in a field that relied heavily on numbers and logic didn't help either. Stevens graduated in 1990 with a degree in civil engineering from North Carolina State University and began work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
"In engineering, you solve a problem and you have an answer," he said. "Engineering had a lot of logic."
But though he was dealing with statistics, potholes and traffic flow, he developed a new skill in his experience working in maintenance as he was again and again expected to interact with the public, discussing their concerns.
"The maintenance side of it made me work with people," he said. "If they had a road or drainage problem or complaint about the Department of Transportation, I was there."
He worked in offices in New Bern and Raleigh before he transferred to Kinston in 1992, where he worked in different capacities for six years. He garnered some experience with water and sewer when he took the job as Kinston's city engineer.
A three-month stint in Greenville pulled him away from Kinston, but when the city merged three departments and created a division of public services, he returned to head the new department.
"The challenge was what brought me back to Kinston," he said. "It was a great experience for me in Kinston. I was always in the right place at the right time."
He remained director of that department until February 2007, when he began work as Kinston's city manager and will begin the next part of his career Monday when he takes over the management of the city of Goldsboro.
But it certainly won't mark his first experience in Goldsboro. Growing up in Cary with parents from the coast, Stevens said U.S. Highway 70 and Goldsboro were landmarks for his family when they visited his grandparents -- especially Wilber's Barbecue.
"It was a good stopping point," he said of Goldsboro.
The trips back east continue, now, as he enjoys the coast and Morehead City, but being east of Interstate 95 makes those trips even better now that he's an adult.
Stevens has also said he appreciates Goldsboro's ties to the military. Eight years in the Navy reserves gave him an appreciation for sacrifice and more opportunities to lead until his second son was born and he decided to pull out of the military to focus on his family.
Eleven years later, the focus is still on them, he said, as Jonathan, 13, and Daniel, 10, take up most of his free time as his family, including his wife, Robin, play sports, travel and spend time together.
"Right now they like their dad and their mom a lot," Stevens said, anticipating that, in time, hanging out with Dad might not be the cool thing to do. "So if you can throw it, hit it or kick it, we do it. Our real goal with the kids is to expose them to a lot of things. And what they like we try to expose them to again, so they take up a bulk of my time."
But that doesn't mean all of his activities revolve around his children. Stevens said he tries to play racquetball at least twice a week as part of a regular exercise routine. He tries to get his heart rate up three or four times a week.
"I've had some people call me old man, and I've had others tell me I'm still pretty young," the 44-year-old said. "Age isn't an issue for me as long as I can think pretty well."
And he doesn't pretend to have all of the answers, he said.
"I came in as a pretty young guy and was supervising people that generally knew the job better and had a lot more experience than I did. I let them know that I need them to solve the problem and deliver the service," he said. "I still don't know everything, but I know a lot more than I did 20 years ago."
And that includes communicating complex ideas to groups of people in ways that make it easy for them to understand
"At Kinston we hired an assistant who I always said was a better engineer than me. He and I made a very good team. The thing that made us work was the thing he could say in 30 minutes, I could do in two minutes to you and you could understand it," he said.
That came in handy when he was pitching ideas to the mayor and city council, he said.
Now, as Goldsboro's chief liaison to the mayor and council, he anticipates facilitating discussions between staff and the elected officials.
His major role as the chief of the city staff is to let them do their job -- and to make sure city projects and services are executed properly, he said.
"I'm the results side. I want to let the people that work for me figure out how to get there. I don't mind working with them to get to that, but I find that generally if I just stay out of their way they can get it done."
But in no way does that mean he will be hands off in his approach to management. He described himself as curious, and said he will find ways to engage with the staff in discussions to make the city better by stopping by departments to check in and just talk with employees.
"I hope most of the employees in Kinston think of me as 'Scott' and I hope the folks in Goldsboro will think the same," he said. "I look forward to working toward meeting the needs of the city and the community and as long as we're all doing that to the best of our ability, I think that's all that we can ask of each other."