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Getting Some Respect for the Municipal Grounds Manager

By Eric Grammer, Communications Manager, Professional Grounds Management Society

Eric Grammer is the Communications Manager for the Professional Grounds Management Society.

From speaking with PGMS members and other grounds professionals, I know that when it comes to the world of municipalities and public works management, the grounds manager or park superintendent might as well be Rodney Dangerfield - you get no respect.

However, public works directors, members of the general public, and municipality leaders can all agree that a healthy, safe and visually appealing environment is always conducive to a fun place to play, a good learning environment or a better community to live in. Most often, municipalities which do the best job serving their community's needs for recreational and outdoor spaces have one thing in common: a strong grounds management operation.

Why is this? It's because grounds management personnel devoted to professionalism and education are key in developing appropriate long-term grounds operation goals in order to accomplish the municipality's overall objectives. These professionals know, when it comes to formalizing such goals it is the community's voice which should speak the loudest.

An effective grounds manager recognizes the importance of understanding their community's demographics and needs. This can and should be accomplished through a variety of methods. The first is seeking feedback from and working with community groups, whether it is a homeowner association or community advisory panel. Another crucial tool in getting a grasp on the citizenry's needs is conducting survey research. How about taking a closer look at demographics? Does your city or county have a declining school enrollment? Then adding new sports fields and playgrounds are probably not a priority. However, adding walking paths for such an aging community may be. On the other hand, a rise in residential construction permits may signal a need for additional youth recreational facilities.

In addition to educating facilities' end users, the grounds manager should also be educating the community's key decision makers on the costs of maintaining such facilities at specific service levels before they are built. A failure to do so can really get municipalities into trouble.

All of this gets to the root of why many of you decided upon a career in grounds management in the first place - the ability to help others reap the benefit of green spaces throughout the community. At the same time this allows you to interact with community members and educate your customers on what costs go into maintaining a facility or site at a certain level.

This brings me to the other crucial role grounds managers should be fulfilling when it comes to determining long-range grounds goals. For instance, a community board determines they need a new multipurpose recreational area, do a great job raising funds for its construction, but run into budget overruns because they didn't take into account the budget implications of maintaining the site. A lot of times this happens because the organization didn't ask for the grounds manager's consultation.

Want to learn how to handle such situations as above or how to become a valued resource by your public works director or community's decision makers? Give careful consideration to earning the status of Certified Grounds Manager (CGM).

If you are an employee for a city, county or state agency, the CGM designation has become more important in advancing your career with the American Public Works Association (APWA) recent endorsement of the CGM Program as its official certification program for grounds management personnel. With 26,000 members, APWA represents public works professionals in municipalities throughout Canada and the United States.

Becoming a CGM signifies that you have met PGMS' and APWA's highest standards of grounds management through education and experience.

Certification proves that you are dedicated to your profession by expanding your goals and continuing your professional development. With certification, your presentations, requests for funds and equipment, and recommendations carry more weight.

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October 17, 2019, 9:27 am PDT

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