A love of cities motivates Jefferson City administrator

Steve Crowell, Jefferson City’s new city administrator, visits with Steve Weaver of the Jefferson City Police Department.

Steve Crowell, Jefferson City’s new city administrator, visits with Steve Weaver of the Jefferson City Police Department.

Steve Crowell was always fascinated by cities and how they function, but it wasn’t until well after college that he realized he wanted to be in city management.

Crowell, who began his duties as city administrator for Jefferson City earlier this month, moved around quite a bit as a child since his father was in the U.S. Army. Born on an Army base in Alabama that no longer exists, Crowell said he rarely spent more than two years in the same city and lived everywhere from Germany to Hawaii.

“My whole world was Army bases,” Crowell said. “I thought the Army provided everything.”

But it was in seventh grade, when a teacher asked the students why water towers were placed on top of hills, when Crowell began to think about the world outside of Army bases and wondered where roads and pipes came from since they weren’t provided by the military.

Crowell went on to study at West Virginia University on a wrestling scholarship and told a counselor that he liked cities and economics. He was then advised to go into business, which he did, though he continued to study economics, noting he read the textbook for an urban economics class just for fun.

“There’s something about cities that I enjoy and I thought it was the economics piece of it,” Crowell said. “But I still didn’t know about city management at that time.”

After college, Crowell began working for Gap stores, where he continued to move around a lot, opening stores and getting them operating before moving to the next store.

It was in Hickory, N.C., while working for Gap, where Crowell saw an ad for a city manager position.

“I thought ‘that’s what I want to be,’” Crowell said.

He then went back to West Virginia University for a master’s degree in public administration before getting a position in a management assistance program in Dallas, where he worked for the police department before working with an assistant city manager.

“It was great for a first public sector job, but I wanted to be a city manager,” Crowell said.

His first opportunity at the job came in David City, Neb., which had about 2,700 residents at the time, where he served as city administrator for nearly two years, before going on to similar positions in La Vista, Neb.; Commerce City, Colo.; Greenwood Village, Colo.; North Port, Fla.; and St. Marys, Ga.

Crowell said what he loves most about working in city government is being able to make a difference and work with residents to make improvements.

“It’s the opportunity to make a difference, make a positive difference,” Crowell said. “I like to focus on the people aspect of it … the things that make me the proudest certainly are the projects that have made a difference.”

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