Deputy City Manager
City of Prescott
Many city or town employees have positions that require them to “wear many hats” in their day-to-day responsibilities. For some, the idea of taking on multiple projects and job titles could seem overwhelming. But Prescott Deputy City Manager Alison Zelms knows a thing or two about variety and tackles multiple projects like a pro.
Having grown up on Air Force bases around the world as a child, Zelms had the opportunity to move to different places, see the world and gain perspective. She spent time in West Germany and saw first-hand the vast differences in lifestyle from each side of the Berlin Wall. It was her experience witnessing West and East Berlin that inspired her interest in the importance and daily impact of public policy.
Taking these early-learned passions, Zelms went on to receive her bachelor’s degree and Master in Public Administration. During graduate school at the University of Arkansas, she began her work in local government, starting at the state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information. From there she became an assistant to the city manager in University Park, Texas, followed by a position in Evanston, Illinois as management analyst in charge of a $175 million operating budget.
Alison was brought to Arizona through an assistant city manager position with the City of Sedona. It was there that she honed her skills in multi-tasking as she oversaw the finance, economic planning, information technology, arts and culture, communications and public works departments. She also started the City of Sedona’s first intergovernmental relations program, serving as their legislative liaison in addition to her regular duties.
In December, Alison celebrated four years of service with the City of Prescott. Drawing on her experience in legislative work from Scottsdale, one of her “many hats” in Prescott also includes serving as the city’s intergovernmental affairs liaison. Within this role, she monitors legislation, develops the city’s annual legislative policy with the city council and communicates the city’s positions during the legislative session. Multitasking is essential for Zelms and any “part-time intergov,” whose full-time positions only offer them minimal time to work on legislative issues, as she is also responsible for oversight of seven operational areas and is engaged in budget development, personnel management, policy implementation and day-to-day operations.
Zelms thrives in the variety of her multi-faceted position. Though it can be a challenge to cover so much ground, she appreciates the combination of broad supervisory duties and leadership on complex policy issues, in addition to continuous education on new issues and making new connections between people and topics.
“This position is never boring,” said Zelms. “There are always opportunities for even small gains to be made in gaining an audience for an issue or creating solutions.”