Sugar Land, Texas, city manager: ‘Always be relevant’

Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity and experience.

This week’s profile is Michael Goodrum, city manager of Sugar Land, Texas.

Public career highlights and education: I got my undergraduate from Texas A&M University in political science. I also attended the Bloomberg Executive Leadership Institute and the Texas Leadership Institute.

Among my career highlights was when I was in Coral Springs, there was a huge financial shortfall, and the city was in a really bad financial situation. But working with the staff and the council on a positive five-year forecast was tremendous.

What I like best about my public service is: We can impact lives today we can see it today. At first I wanted to go into the federal government, and I really struggled with not being able to see the tangible results of it – knowing there is an impact but not being able to see it. So being able to impact people’s lives, where you can see that impact is probably what I enjoy most.

Most cities have their vision – that they want to be the city of choice to live, work and play. You hear that all the time, and that’s not who we are. We’re different. We’re trailblazers, relentless in our pursuit of good so our residents, businesses, employees can enjoy a life better than they can imagine. And when you think in that manner – How do I create an environment where my employees have a life better than they can imagine? – if I’m relentless in doing that, that’s making a huge impact on them. And if we’re doing that with the public to where life is better than you can imagine it changes what services you provide, it changes how you provide them.

The best advice I’ve received: It was from my city manager at the time, Alan Bogart, who said be relevant, and that struck with me more than anything.

How do I make myself relevant as an employee and then if and when I found that I focus on always trying to be relevant, like always trying to help, always trying to find a way to be relevant. My career started shooting off and then when I became a director, how is my department relevant? Why do we matter? And then the big thing with cities, so much developments happening outside of cities. You know it’s happening in unincorporated areas, and so why do cities exist? What makes a city relevant? And I think there’s a lot of things that make us relevant.

I think having an organization that truly cares about you and that’s going to advocate for you and they don’t just build your house and leave, but they’re going to put everything in play to make sure that your life is better than you can even imagine. We’ve spent a lot of time working to be relevant.

And it’s not just what makes us relevant today. What makes those relevant in the future?

We just signed a partnership with Whisk Aero and will be the first city in the Houston region with autonomous flying taxis, right? So that was there is going to be cleared by the FAA this year. That right there is not relevant today because we’re not going to fly in today. It’s probably relevant next year, but it may be completely relevant in 10 years. That’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten, and it’s done well for me.

One thing I wish more people knew about City of Sugarland: People probably don’t know that we have an airport that’s consistently rated one of the top airports in North America. It’s of amazing airport with customs and everything else just right in our backyard.

We’re also the only city in Texas that has shut down by legislation and purchased a prison.
We purchased the original Imperial Central prison from the state of Texas, the first city to close a prison down by legislation, and we purchased it for economic development purposes.

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