Talent Exchange participant helps MH with innovative program

Published in the December 11-25 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Adam Henig

Adam Henig

Adam Henig

For the past decade, I have been a recreation supervisor for Saratoga. During the past three months, I have been working for Morgan Hill through the Management Talent Exchange Program, an innovative program that sends mid-level municipal managers like myself to another city for a brief period to broaden their skills.

During my time here, I was under the tutelage of Community Services Director Chris Ghione. He made my transition smooth, and provided me with the quality work I was seeking. Initially, my expectations were modest: try to remember names, complete assignments and pick up a new skill or two. By mid-morning on my first day at City Hall, I already had a desk, a laptop and a wireless mouse. I was set.

Then there was a knock at the door. Ghione, who I was sharing an office with, introduced me to Edith Ramirez, Morgan Hill’s economic development manager. Ramirez bypassed salutations.

“Do you want to work on economic development?” she asked nonchalantly.

I already had a full plate, but I was reminded by past participants that MTEP was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Sure,” I answered.
We met for lunch and my assignment was transformed. The project was a one-day event called “Morgan Hill Downtown Street Scenes.” It involved taking parking spots on Monterey Road and temporarily transforming them into interactive pedestrian spaces. The hope was this would bring more residents downtown.

Working with the Morgan Hill Downtown Association and the Tourism Alliance, our weekly meetings became a massive checklist that continued to grow with each passing week.

From modifying the city’s two-page encroachment permit into an eight-page application packet and working closely with the department of public works and the police department, to asking local merchants to invest their time and creativity in activating empty parking spaces with furniture, community activities and an overarching theme, it was a miracle the event wasn’t stopped in its tracks.

And then there was Ramirez, a leader with a million ideas. And I was responsible for implementing nearly all of them. In the end, everyone came together.

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Whether it was M&H Tavern offering free hot chocolate and an opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap, or Centennial Recreation Center staff recruiting pedestrians passing by to join their U-Jam workout, the merchants didn’t need much convincing. In fact, they were so enthusiastic that we had more applications than spots available.

The city was helpful, especially in streamlining the permitting process. And members of my team spent much of their free time to ensure it was a success.

In the end, street scenes created buzz which brought the community downtown during Small Business Saturday. Events like this one connect the city’s small businesses with its community in a way that makes Morgan Hill stand out. They serve as a reminder of why residents love living in this town.

Adam Henig, his wife, and son live in Gilroy. When he’s not mowing the lawn or changing a dirty diaper, he loves to read, write, and stroll through his neighborhood.

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek