Nora Johnson has been chosen to oversee the city's newly created Civic Services Department, City Manager Steve Sarkozy has announced.
A former assistant director for the city's Transportation Department, Johnson will be responsible for managing day-to-day customer service operations at City Hall, facility services, fleet and communications, and real property and land survey.
Johnson will oversee about 70 existing employees previously assigned to five other city departments.
Sarkozy said creation of the new department will allow city operations to become more efficient by consolidating several internal functions into one department, thereby freeing up other departments to focus exclusively on external initiatives.
"Nora brings a world's worth of solid experience to this new position, and we're fortunate she has agreed to accept the challenge," Sarkozy said. "And her longstanding commitment to excellent customer service makes her uniquely qualified for the job."
In her new role, Johnson will be responsible for managing operations at Bellevue's new City Hall located downtown in the central business district.
Opened in February 2006, the building has quickly become a focal point for the community and a growing number of government and civic activities, including concerts, conferences and the city's biennial sculpture exhibition. Through June of this year, the facility played host to more than 40 events.
"When a new downtown City Hall was first contemplated by the City Council, it was envisioned as a building that would not only symbolize open and accessible government, but become a destination place for Bellevue and the Eastside," Johnson said. "Both these goals have been met."
Johnson said one of the features of the new City Hall -- the creation of a unique customer service operations center on the first floor called Service First -- has been an unqualified success. Service First representatives routinely handle hundreds of phone calls and walk-in customers daily, taking care of constituents' needs and questions without them having to go anywhere else.
"The concept boils down to looking after the customers' needs from their perspective and making sure they get what they need in one, simple stop with no hassles," Johnson said. "There is no need for them to go anywhere else in City Hall or even know how we're organized as a city."
As director of Civic Services, Johnson will also oversee fleet services at a time when the city is moving toward a greener, more fuel-efficient fleet as part of the City Council's broader environmental stewardship initiative. The city recently put its first all-electric truck into service, and expects to have 30 hybrid vehicles in the city's fleet by the end of the year, she said.
Johnson said skyrocketing oil prices are expected to have a huge impact on the city fleet's fuel bill this year. The city typically budgets $900,000 annually for fuel, but that figure is expected to jump 30 to 40 percent. Replacing traditional vehicles with hybrid and electric vehicles will help mitigate these increasing costs and reduce the city's carbon footprint.
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