Sunday, April 27, 2014

City Hall, Public Life In Madison Will Miss Wanda Fullmore

Wanda Fullmore is retiring Monday Wednesday.

And that's more than a staff change in City Hall and the Mayor's Office.

It's a sea change in the life and daily mechanics of the city.

Not just in its governance, but in the city's relationship to the outside world, writ large, because since 1975, Wanda was the face and voice of the city as the first person you'd see or talk to if you contacted  the Mayor's office.

The State Journal had a nice piece about her last week, with some photos. Here is the link.

You'd be surprised at the volume and variety of these contacts. People having no business with the Mayor would call from around the city, or the state, or the country or the world looking for someone to point them in the right direction.

People looking for a phone number, or an address.

Reporters checking a fact or looking for a source.

People of all kinds would walk in: business owners, tourists, elected officials, lost souls, lost kids, friends of friends of friends - - even people with appointments! - - and Wanda would handle the ballet and din and frequent long line with equanimity and aplomb.

All the while answering the phones and interacting with the Mayor and the rest of the staff.

I could never figure out how she did it.

No one could.

I remember walking to the reception area one day and seeing a television reporter sitting silently. I asked if was waiting for someone or needed anything.

"Nope," he said. "I'm just watching Wanda. In amazement."

Wanda quickly became invaluable in staff meetings because she knew and could work her way/our way through all the official, off-site and behind-the-scenes lines of communications and paths to a problem's source or solution.

And her judgement was impeccable: I never heard anyone say, "Wanda got that wrong," or "Wanda really botched that."

It's impossible to say how many people Wanda has helped with good information or solid advice or the shortest, best right route through a bureaucracy in the City-County Building, or at the Capitol, or in a Congressional office in Washington, DC.

Or how many people's days Wanda made brighter with a smile, or "take care, Sweetie."

So if you want to see Wanda one last time in her element, do it Monday because that's her last day running that show.

They're having a party for her at the Frank Lloyd Wright Center Thursday afternoon, and if I were advising local businesses or government officials or agencies that would benefit from bringing on or consulting with Madison's Institutional Memory, I'd make sure I went to that event, made my pitch and got my business card in her hand.

Wanda told me she wants to take it easy and spend more time with her family and see more of the world.

Which she certainly has coming.

But people looking for talent and competency and spirit and leadership will always find their way to talent and expertise, so they are going to beat a path to her door like executives who heard that Jodie Foster was looking for a new project or Mariano Rivera was available for a front-office position.

I've been gone from Madison and the Mayor's office for a long, long time, yet when I think of my time there I remain greatful that I was one of Wanda's co-workers and stayed in touch with her.

You don't get too many chances like that in this life.

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