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Springfield, MO

2015 Men of the Year Honoree: Greg Burris

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As CEO of one of the largest and most diverse organizations in the Queen City, Greg Burris is the city’s top boss, facilitator and cheerleader.

“My job is to hire the right people, define a compelling vision, allocate them the right resources and then get out of their way,” says the Springfield city manager. “If I’ve done a good job of hiring the right leadership team, they will get the job done.”

Carrying a sense of humor wherever he goes, Burris takes a team-centered approach to leading an organization that covers a wide variety of functions, from city streets and parks to the Springfield Art Museum, Springfield-Branson National Airport and Dickerson Park Zoo.

The former Missouri State University vice president says his proudest accomplishment working for Springfield has been the implementation of the City Ambassadors Program, a team-building initiative designed to teach all employees from the bottom up about the complex structure of the municipal government. Burris says CAmP helps break down silos that can present a barrier for workers.

“This program will likely have a more long-term impact on the city organization than anything else I will ever do,” he says.

The city manager also keeps an eye out on the organization’s “customers,” the residents of Springfield.

It’s an uphill battle, he says, but one worth fighting.

“Our country was born from a mistrust of government,” Burris says. “That means we, as the city of Springfield, are swimming upstream to establish trust with our citizens. Earning and keeping trust is our primary goal, because we are nothing without it. We strive to do the right thing, do things right and create trust.

“Beyond that, nothing else matters.”

To foster that trust, Burris hosts information-gathering events with neighborhood associations, among other community groups.  

One such initiative, dubbed Community Listen, invited residents of nine of Springfield’s northwest neighborhoods to come to the table. Using data collected at these meetings, Burris and the city plotted neighborhood maps to identify problem areas.

“The result was a sobering analysis of how one quadrant of our city is in desperate need of assistance from the entire community,” he says of the city’s northwest. “Based upon the data we collected on this quadrant, we knew we could not ignore the trends occurring in that portion of our community.”

Working toward that goal, the city is developing an 18-month blitz plan to face issues head on.

To further envelop himself in the inner workings of the city, Burris serves on numerous committees and organizations.

Since 2011, Burris has volunteered as the United Way of the Ozarks campaign chairman, and he served as its board chairman in 2012. He also is co-chairman of the Healthy Living Alliance Advisory Board, recently agreed to serve as a president of the new Downtown Council of Champions and has been a member of several city committees, such as planning task force in partnership with Greene County. As a mentor of The Network’s mentorship program, two of his mentees have been selected as Young Professionals of the Year.

“Additionally, my day job as city manager is 100 percent civic affairs,” he says.

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