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Possible model for other communities

The city of Rochester Hills recently posted, and hired, a strategic innovations specialist designed to assists the office of the mayor in performing and coordinating the implementation of ideas and projects that have the potential to transform government.

What in the world does that mean?

According to mayor Bryan Barnett, "Whether it's implementing a best practice or taking on new technologies, our team has always looked to be innovative by nature," and they are eager to bring about greater change, modernization and inventiveness not only in the city's government, but in their interaction with residents and businesses. Among the innovation responsibilities of the staff position is to “lead innovation efforts to reduce costs and develop creative alternative revenue; keep current on upcoming trends in local government and how they can be implemented in the city; and develop, review and interpret complex policies affecting the city,” as well as researching the best solutions.

Rochester Hills hired a 30-year plus resident and former advertising executive, Tom Talbert, who served as managing director and executive vice president of Campbell Ewald, one of Michigan's largest ad agencies, for nearly 29 years.

The position, which pays $81,234 salary per year, plus benefits, is likely a wash for the city, as the position of assistant to the mayor was eliminated. Beyond being an assistant to the mayor, Talbert will help prepare city communications, such as press releases, speeches and resolutions, coordinate grant administration and special projects, among many other duties.

While many municipalities have assistants to mayors or city managers, we are impressed with the range of responsibilities Talbert is tasked with, as well as the caliber of qualifications he brings to Rochester Hills. In an era of rapid change, from everything to technology to revenue enhancement, creativity and modernization seem like a requirement for municipalities to remain at the forefront of technology and what it can offer to cities and townships.

Talbert has said that he spent his advertising career working within innovative environments creating successful change for his clients. If he views the city as another client, rather than as a bureaucracy, he will immediately bring a fresh perspective to municipal work.

Rochester Hills may be on to something unique and truly innovative – a staff position on how to reinvent themselves as a government. If they are able to help facilitate modern, state-of-the-art practices for the community, they will be a governmental version that should be modeled and replicated throughout the area.

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