Notes from an Internship: Part III

So there I was. Lights flashing. Firefighters running around. A peaceful Marana home suddenly engulfed in flames, but for the efforts of the Town intern.

OK, that may not all be true. It might have been only a little bit of smoke from an overworked AC unit, leaving only minor damage. I might have been standing a hundred feet back, far out of harm’s way. What I really got to see, though, was the highly coordinated efforts of Northwest Fire District personnel doing their job.

The call came in at the perfect time: throughout the morning and early afternoon, I toured NWFD’s training facility with Alex Sepulveda, spoke extensively with Community Affairs Manager Trina Motto, learned about emergency medical services with Sean Culliney, and finally visited stations throughout Marana with Battalion Chief Stu Rodeffer. Suddenly, I got to see theory turn into practice.

Experienced firefighters quickly executed a long-practiced routine, expertly preventing a minor issue from becoming a major conflagration. As I watched these men and women ply their craft, I remembered a comment from Alex a few hours earlier. “We put the wet stuff on the red stuff.” The simplicity of this statement about dousing fires belies Northwest Fire’s extraordinary coordination, but serves as a valuable lesson. Don’t overthink things. Keep the big picture in mind. Put the wet stuff on the red stuff.

When I got back to the office the next day, I started thinking about one of my current projects. With the recent rollout of the new Town website, many departments are still working to develop high-quality content for their pages. Since I used to manage my school’s website, I’ve found an affinity for this kind of work. When our new Assistant HR Director, Kisha McCabe, indicated that my help with her department’s page would be welcome, I started thinking of the elegant ways I could construct their site. How can I creatively display benefit information for prospective employees? What’s the most aesthetically pleasing way to design a landing page for current staff? As I dreamed up beautiful graphics and artful transitions, Alex’s voice cut through the fluff. Employees need straightforward information, so just plainly lay out their benefit options. Keep it simple. Put the wet stuff on the red stuff.

Clever heuristics have their limitations, and I know a certain degree of complexity is unavoidable with this job. Sometimes, however, it’s refreshing to be reminded of the larger task at hand. A teacher teaches. A firefighter fights fires. In the Manager’s Office, our overriding objective is to provide excellent customer service to Marana residents. Some days, figuring out how to do that will be a challenge, and other days it may be clearer. Every day, though, I’m learning more and more about how best to accomplish that goal. I’ll keep you in the loop with what I find out.

Chris Saunders is a Marvin Andrews Scholar who is interning with the Town this summer. He is writing weekly entries for Marana 365 through the end of August.