Have you ever wondered what it's like to be the mayor? Want to feel a little smarter about Sioux Falls? We had a chat with Mayor Paul TenHaken about his job, his background and the movie "Freaky Friday."
All responses are quotes from TenHaken.
How did you "get smart" about Sioux Falls? – i.e. what in your background or in your own research or activities prepared you for your job as mayor?
The only way to really prepare for a role like this is to spend a lot of years being active and engaged in the community.
- It’s hard to substitute that experience of living, working, and playing in the community you want to lead and the perspective that it brings you on the issues of the day.
- Serve on boards, volunteer, shop local, use our parks system, follow local media, meet with other community leaders – immersing yourself in a community is the best way to fully understand it.
We're all about simplicity here. Can you describe what it's like to be mayor in 10 words or less?
Stress inducing, patience building, horizon broadening, and so incredibly rewarding.
What's something people most often misunderstand about your job? And if you could politely correct them, what would you say?
- In our form of government, I serve as the chief executive of the city, meaning in addition to some of the more ceremonial duties of a mayor, I oversee a 1,300 employee organization with a $650 million budget.
- As a result, I get dozens of requests each week for various meetings, a quick coffee, a phone call, stop by an event, etc. My calendar is a train wreck, so I have to say no a lot, which is not easy for me to do.
If you could switch places for a day ("Freaky Friday"-style) with another city employee, whose job would you want to have, and why?
I love this question. I think I could crush being a lifeguard for a day.
- I also really enjoy doing ride-alongs with our police department and find their work challenging but very rewarding.
What's your favorite "fun fact" about Sioux Falls?
We have enough lane miles of road in our city to stretch from here to Anchorage, Alaska. That’s a lot of snow plowing.
What's your advice for someone who wants to learn more about the work you do?
Getting engaged in public service begins with getting engaged in the community. You have to become a “student of Sioux Falls” and soak up all you can about the past and present of the city and how we got to where we are today.
How do you spend your time when you're not wearing your "mayor hat"?
I love anything fitness related – running, cycling, triathlons, lifting weights. It’s very therapeutic for me to exercise, listen to a podcast, and get lost for an hour or so in personal development.
Anything else you want the people of Sioux Falls to know about you, your job or this city?
I have the opportunity to work with cities and mayors across the country. Sioux Falls is a very special place that we often take for granted – myself included. I am honored to help shepherd it for a few more years.