As a technician, Mark Garrow, transit/garage manager for the City of Bettendorf, Iowa, appreciated learning about and adapting to new technology. As the years went by and he accrued experience, he felt he could make a bigger impact from a management standpoint. With this exciting and challenging endeavor came many lessons he feels will be of use to others breaking into higher levels of government service.
- Put yourself in an employee’s shoes.
Think back to when you were being managed by someone: what helped you grow, and what made life harder?
“I try to factor in all the different experiences I’ve had that have made me better and pass that on in my interactions with my team,” he said.
- Management is a life-long learning experience.
Look into classes you can take or books you can read, and attend trade or networking events to learn from those who’ve been managing fleets for years.
“I've done a lot of studying, and my experience has helped with the knowledge aspect of the job. I’ve also had to learn some things on the computer side, and part of earning the respect of others is to show you are a willing student when it comes to what you don’t know,” he said.
- You can’t be a manager without people to lead.
Don’t be a lone wolf — talk to technicians and drivers and ask for feedback on everything from vehicle specs to procedures that can be streamlined.
“I bring important bits and pieces to it, but I don't know everything. I try to approach it as a team effort, and I think people respect that. It's not ‘my way or the highway’; it’s ‘we're in this together,’” he said.
- Take calculated risks.
No one ever got anywhere by doubting themselves. If you hear about something departments in other cities are doing, experiment in a way that might benefit your own fleet.
“Say you’re trying a new type of equipment as a part of a pilot program. If it works, great! If not, document what you learned from the mistake and move on,” he said.
- Stay informed and adapt when it comes to the future of fleet — particularly electric vehicles (EVs).
The City of Bettendorf is currently working toward implementing alternative fuel vehicles, mainly its bus fleet. As the current EV technology stands, Garrow said he’s waiting until charging technology can enable a bus to run for a whole shift before needing to be charged. He’s excited to research more options as the technology increases in reliability.
Also in the realm of pursuing a more environmentally-friendly operation is the department’s paperless repair order system for its technicians. This has cut down on redundancy and paper usage, and saved a lot of time.