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A New Perspective on Thanks

What are you thankful for this holiday? Your family, friends, and teachers? Your health or your job? Most Thanksgivings, my list looks like the familiar one above.

This Thanksgiving, after a year as a Code for America Fellow working with the City of Chattanooga, I’ve got a whole new perspective on thanks.

Roshonda working with Code for America 2014 Fellows

Roshonda working with Code for America 2014 Fellows

Like many people outside government, last year at this time, I had no idea the effort that so many city employees pour into their jobs. Now, after a year working alongside them, I’m grateful that their work is no longer invisible to me.

One of the first people I met at the City of Chattanooga was Roshonda Woods. She works at the 311 call center. Ten years ago she helped set up what was then one of the first 311 centers in the country. Soon, she’ll help with an overhaul of that system. In between, she’s taken more than 100,000 calls. Every day she helps citizens get the services they need, from brush pickup to career support.

I also had the pleasure of working with Tyler Yount, the Civic Engagement Coordinator in the Mayor’s office. Tyler recently woke up at 2am to survey the city’s homeless veterans on foot in the streets and parks of the city, as part of the city’s initiative to end veteran homelessness. After waking in the middle of the night to do this hard work (in the rain!) he went into his desk at City Hall and put in a full day of work, ending the day at 6pm.

And every day I was greeted as I entered City Hall by Sydney McDonald, who welcomes visitors, answers their questions, and directs them to the appropriate office. Sydney brings a well of enthusiasm and great sense of humor to the daily challenges of city government operations.

Roshonda, Tyler, and Sydney are just three of many who make a city tick. Humble in their service, it’s easy to overlook their dedication.

I am immeasurably impressed by all the heroes I met within local government; and all those who I didn’t meet but who work tirelessly in City Halls across America. Our public servants labor to improve our lives, so that everyone can have more to be thankful for today.

Today and every day, they have my deepest gratitude.