Lonnie Ballard, a native of Virginia, is now the assistant city manager for public services.
Far removed from his native Hampton Roads, Va., Lonnie Ballard spends his days managing some of the City of Albany’s most complex departments.
At night, he dreams of laying beachside at a popular island getaway where he can swap his bowtie for a mai tai and enjoy all that mother nature has provided.
Ballard recently participated in a question-and-answer session with The Herald’s J.D. Sumner.
Q: What was your first job?
A: We started out working with my grandmother. You know, grandmothers love to spoil their grandchildren, but she wanted us to work for some of the things we got. Every Fall we’d be responsible for going over and raking the leaves and cleaning up the yard. It kind of caught on and the neighbors would ask “are the grandkids coming over? Can they get my yard?” So we actually did every yard in the neighborhood.
NAME: Lonnie Ballard
JOB: Assistant City Manager for Public Services
HOMETOWN: Hampton Roads, Va.
FUN FACT: Likes to travel.
Q: What did you buy with your first paycheck?
A: I’m sure it had something to do with back-to-school or supplies or maybe a new outfit for that first day of school, something like that. And I probably saved the rest.
Q: Who has inspired you or served as a role model throughout your career?
A: Well my mother was a great influence in my life. I think watching her work and work hard was instrumental in my character development, so I definitely attribute the person I have become to the way I was reared. Many others have played a role. From people in the faith community to educators; those early teachers who saw something in you that they felt was worth investing in; stuff that was outside of the classroom and books that helped develop other talents and skills. And other public sector folks — city managers, even professors in college.
Q: If you were stranded on an island, what three things would you like to have?
A: I would say something that would help me with illumination — maybe a flashlight or lantern or match or something of that nature. Something to provide shelter, a tent. And something to keep me strong like my Bible, something that’s going to help me sustain my faith.
Q: How do you feel about goal-setting? Do you have any set goals for yourself?
A: I think I do have some thoughts about my future, but I’m not so rigid to think that it’s going to happen the way I think it should. But I think the key to it is always being prepared. So I try to continually develop myself professionally — to learn new things — because often when you learn new things new paths develop and that’s been my goal.
Q: If you could give some advice to a younger person who wants to follow in your footsteps, what would it be?
A: To be patient. A lot of people ask, particularly young people, how did you become an assistant city manager? I don’t necessarily think that there is one path to that or to becoming a public manager. I think you really need to take the opportunity to learn the position you are in and I think that progression is natural; you don’t have to force it. When you’re young and you have that degree in hand, you want to come straight out and be a manager. I would say don’t rush to be in a position of assigned leadership. I think that people can lead in many forms and that you don’t necessarily have to have a title to be a leader.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead, real or imaginary, who would it be and why?
A: I’m going to go back to my grandmother, she was a great influence for my family. She was the person who really sort of helped keep all of the family together and so to sit down and have lunch with her ... she’s no longer living, just to let her know that we’re OK and that we’ve turned out pretty well. As well as to maybe get a glimpse of what the other side is like.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I like to travel as much as I can. Just to see new things and new places. I am one of those people who, if I’m riding down the interstate or am in a community I’m not familiar with, I’ll just look at a house or community and wonder how those folks live or what their culture is like in this particular community so that is something that intrigues me; I like experiencing new cultures. So traveling affords me that opportunity.
Q: If money was no object, and you had all the time you needed, where would you travel to and why?
A: I enjoyed my time in the Caymen Islands. There appeared to be white sand and blue, clear water, a perfect breeze. That’s something I envision myself doing; just laying on the beach, taking it easy, really enjoying all of the natural resources that are around us and keeping it really low key. I really, really, really enjoyed the Caymen Islands. If I could go back, I would certainly do that.
Q: From your perspective, what do you see as some of the challenges the city has to overcome and what are some of its strengths?
A: I think that this city has a lot to offer for a city of its size. And I think that sometimes that is overlooked. If you look at Albany Tech and Albany State and Darton State; if you look at cities our size, how many can say that they have three institutions of higher learning. We have amenities from the RiverQuarium to Chehaw; top rate amenities that people love. We have a natural resource in the river. I think that many of the answers to the city’s challenges lie right here in the city. Part of it is engaging those solutions; engaging that knowledge, skill and ability — getting those folks to come to the table to work to solve the problems.