MANKATO — For Tanya Ange, it was sort of the ultimate internship performance.
A graduate student at Minnesota State University, Ange did the nine-month internship with the city of Mankato, and when it was over, she was told to keep coming to work. The nine-month internship has now been extended by a total of 120 months and counting, although the titles changed from "intern" to "assistant to the city manager" to "deputy city manager."
After more than 10 years of watching city government work, she's not hesitant about what she wants her final title to be.
"My goal is to be a city manager," Ange said.
It doesn't sound likely that her employment goal will ever transform into management jobs in the private sector or even at different level of government, say a state agency or a slot in the federal bureaucracy.
"I believe in this level of government," said Ange, talking about the ability of a city to stay in touch with the people, to seek out their input and ideas, and to collaborate with private businesses and nonprofits to get things done. "For those reasons, that is why I will only work at a local level."
And work she has. The job description includes items such as oversight of the city's administrative services, improving city processes, leading strategic initiatives and filling in when City Manager Pat Hentges is away. Essentially, she's tasked with making the city more efficient, effective and innovative.
Ange's assignments range from some of the most visible changes the city has seen to those that, at least initially, are completely unobserved by the public.
She coordinated the City Center Renaissance Plan, which is changing the face of downtown, bringing a revitalized Front Street entertainment district, making the downtown cleaner and more friendly to pedestrians, adding dozens of sculptures to the urban core, and now is spreading the long-range planning to the Old Town area northeast of downtown.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ange is overseeing a complete replacement and modernization of the city's software system, which will bring more efficiency and transparency to the municipal budget and to other city data. The changes also will radically overhaul how the city finances long-term maintenance and renovation of municipal buildings, setting aside dollars each year to cover anticipated future building repairs and renovations that previously would require borrowing when the multi-million-dollar bills came due.
Ange has been the city's point person in bringing The Y in as manager of the Tourtellotte swimming pool, worked with Bethany Lutheran College's Media Arts Department to enliven and modernize public access television, negotiated with the county attorney to have that office handle all of the city's criminal prosecutions, and coordinated with consultants to diversify city revenues, including a complete revamping of how water and sewer costs are charged to users.
She was assigned to help private and nonprofit organizations set up the Mankato Marathon and the Kiwanis Holiday Lights, and she worked with downtown businesses on a new financial structure to ensure the users of downtown parking ramps were equitably financing maintenance and cleaning of those facilities.
Then there's the 311 information system, where residents can dial those three digits and get an answer to almost any municipal-related question.
"We've been recognized as a leader for small- to mid-size cities in how to implement a 311 system," she said.
While the goals might seem obvious and the results positive, the challenge is in the nuts and bolts of designing and implementing the changes.
"I enjoy my role, and I enjoy the community," she said. "... I never have a boring day."
Ange is proud of her city, confident that Mankatoans do a better job than virtually anyone at working together — public, private and nonprofit — to tackle problems and make improvements.
"It's a fabulous community to live and to raise a family," she said. "What's kept us here is there's a special sauce in Mankato, and it's really rooted in the people."