I recently retired as a First Sergeant and Army Combat Engineer after 23 years of service. During my military career I took part in many different deployments that included fighting fires in Idaho, finding the remains of Soldiers that never made it back from our country’s past conflicts, to being a drill Sergeant, and finally searching and neutralizing improvised explosive devices and fighting the enemy in Afghanistan. It has been an honor and privilege to have worn the uniform for so long.
As I was getting closer to my retirement I had heard about a program for becoming a Veteran Representative. I applied for the position, but as I found out more information about the program it became clear that the position was not going to be a good fit for me. I was then informed about the Veteran Local Government Management Fellowship (VLGMF) program. Once again, I applied, was interviewed for the position, and was selected to take part in the Pueblo West community as a Parks and Recreation representative.
As I started the VLGMF program I really didn’t know what to expect. I was looking for an opportunity to work in the civilian work force since the military was all I had known for the last 23 years. I started the fellowship in August 2016 with the Parks and Recreation Department, and it has been an awesome experience. Mrs. Carol, Mrs. Jeanie, and the rest of the crew took me in and taught me how to speak the local government language and think like a civilian.
For many, changing the way you think and speak might sound silly, but having been a Soldier since November 1993 and a leader (manager) since 1997, it was a difficult transition. During my entire military career I have been given instruction and direction on how, when, where, who, what and sometimes why a task needed to be done. This transition is a different type of mission for me, but the people and residents in Pueblo West have taught me the difference between being a Soldier and a Coworker. I have learned about human resources, work hours, pay scale, time and a half, time cards, health insurance, and dental insurance. Yes, I also learned how to do my job as a Parks and Recreation representative, which was fun and easy, and with time I will know all I need to know. The most important thing that I learned during the fellowship was speaking the local government language and communication. The day-to-day language is definitely different, and I no longer use terms like be quiet, do as I say, and hurry up!
I truly believe that the VLGMF helped me with my transition into the local government management work force. Having attended meetings, completed complex projects, engaged local residents, and having completed the ICMA Local Government 101 certificate helped me to understand the different management components and effort required to make a community a better place to live. I highly recommend the VLGMF program to retiring and transitioning Soldiers. A career in local government management is a great opportunity to continue to serve in your community, just as you served your country.
Eddie Ruiz, 1SG (Ret.)