City of Yelm Restructures Multiple Departments Following Retirement

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Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck has announced his retirement, prompting  the city of Yelm to undergo a major restructuring process, effective immediately.

The restructuring includes the following:

The community development department has been combined with the public works department to create the new public services department, which is overseen by Cody Colt.

The information technology (IT) department has been combined with the human resources department to create the new administrative services department, overseen by Lori Lucas.

The role of the customer service team along with the responsibilities of Communications Specialist Briana Feller and the duties of the city clerk — transferred to Kathy Linnemeyer to facilitate council meetings and advisory boards and commissions — have been combined to create the new community services department.

“The opportunity came to us when Grant Beck announced his retirement,” said Yelm City Administrator Michael Grayum. “He has been a tremendous asset to the city. He has been managing more than his fair share of what any department manager should be responsible for.”

As an overseer of the former community development department, Beck has been in charge of planning and engineering, but he was also responsible for the city’s IT department.

“When he announced his retirement, we looked at what would be a workload that would be more manageable for people and what would be an opportunity to integrate and realign the operations of the city,” Grayum said.

A retirement can be an opportunity to hit pause and look at an organization’s systems for the past, present and future, he said.

In Yelm’s case, it’s an opportunity to grow its services.

The integration of IT and human resources into the administrative services department was critical and a no-brainer, Grayum said.

“IT is such an invaluable resource that they deal with a lot of confidential information and so does human resources,” he said. “Combining the confidential aspects and responsibilities of human resources with the confidential work of information technology, that was just a natural fit.”

As for the community services department, Grayum highlighted how the former customer service team has been able to excel because the new city hall building has a unified front desk that can handle all the requests of customers, residents and business owners.

That customer service, coupled with the recent revamping of the city’s advisory boards and commissions, as well as the effective facilitation of council meetings, all relate because they fulfill the needs of the community.

To cap off the community services department, public communications has also been added to the mix.

“We’ve also transitioned our communications specialist to that team as well, so that now you have not only a group of people that’s dedicated not only to serving the customers, you also have as a member of that team, an individual, who is responsible for helping communicate to those customers,” Grayum said.

Finally, came the hefty integration of community development and public works into the public services department.

“Those two departments that used to be headed by two different department directors, they work so closely together that it only made sense to combine them,” Grayum said.

Colt, the previous public works director, will oversee the combined entity with the help of a planning and building manager, who is slated to be hired as a resource that will replace Beck’s extensive knowledge in the area of city planning and engineering.

In addition to Colt’s former duties with what used to be the public works department, he will also be in charge of implementing Yelm’s “Big Rocks” initiatives, tentpole projects the city has prioritized for its growth and success.

“Right now, Yelm is at a wonderful pivot point because a lot of the work that we’ve done is focusing on the ‘Big Rocks,’ where we’ve made advancements in improving the transportation, securing the water rights, (and) upgrading the water facility,” Grayum said. “We are positioned for growth.”

Yelm’s “Big Rocks” are as follows:

- Water rights: The city of Yelm has been part of a pilot project with the Washington State Legislature to secure more water rights. It has put together a package that should be state approved by fall to secure water rights and mitigate the impacts. As a result of the potential new waters rights acquisition, more people will be incentivized to develop in Yelm, which will gain more revenue from the property taxes of the developments. This influx of revenue will facilitate the ongoing progression of work on roadways, sidewalks, parks and playgrounds, among other projects, Grayum said.

- Transportation: The city of Yelm continues to work toward the Yelm Loop bypass, which has been hampered by the Washington Department of Transportation’s funding difficulties and other issues. The city of Yelm has been advocating for funding to be moved up and has been lobbying for the project to be a higher priority to the state.

- Habitat restoration: The city of Yelm is working to create a unified comprehensive approach to mitigate the impacts of development on the endangered “pocket gophers” in the area, whose plight has hampered the progression of businesses and residences alike due to restrictions and hoops the entities have to jump through individually.

- Education Innovation Building: The city of Yelm has secured land near city hall that will be used as a center for community education and professional development. It has already secured about $200,000 from the Washington State Legislature for public outreach and architecture designs regarding the project.

- Water Reclamation Facility: The City of Yelm has invested time and resources to revamp its once first-of-its-kind water reclamation facility, which now needs updates and repairs.

Grayum said each of these “Big Rocks” are a priority because they are integral to the current and future economic success of the community.

And the restructuring is just going to help everything go more smoothly, Grayum said.

For instance, integrating the communications with the customer service team will make information more readily accessible to the public so they stay informed on the “Big Rocks,” or what’s happening and what’s coming down the pike, he said.

“By creating a better alignment with these departments, it will be better for the employees who are doing the work and it should improve and expedite things from a process perspective, which is better for the public,” Grayum said, adding it will help streamline the legislative process for the city council as well.

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