Celebrating his recent promotion, Assistant City Manager of Lancaster, TX, Carey Neal is humbled and excited as he discusses his unique journey into local government. After working in Human Resource Management for over seven years, Carey pivoted to the government sector, bringing his impressive skill set with him, translating well into local government. He puts it best, “I’m teaching colleagues how we can embody customer service because, after all, we are an organization serving the public.”
Although he caught the government bug early on, his career trajectory was all but traditional.
He first got a taste of public service when he interned for State Representative, Yvonne Davis, while still in high school.
“The process of just working with Yvonne really showed me what it meant to be an effective public servant in our community. She was an incredibly positive example for me, growing up in an underprivileged area and seeing someone very well respected in her field- an African American woman who embodies professionalism, power and grace. It was Yvonne who really inspired me to do something great for the community.”
While he credits Yvonne Davis for catalyzing his interest in government, Carey Neal named his educators and teachers as great inspirations, ultimately guiding his decision to pursue a degree in Education at the University of Texas. After graduation he began his career at Walmart as a Human Resource Director but soon felt a need to return to public service, this time, specifically within the local sector.
“I was working in human resources and while it was fulfilling helping people, I wanted to do something on a greater level. I realized I wanted to work in government and so I looked into the type of education individuals in that capacity have, which led me to public administration.”
While pursuing a Masters in Public Administration, Carey was exposed to the wonders of local government.
“It was there I started learning more about the local government side of public service. I learned what a city manager does and how they directly impact the community first hand, how they provide the services people don’t appreciate until they’re gone, like roadways, water, recreational services, parks. You know, the types of things that directly impact everyone’s quality of life. Once the opportunity presented itself for me to get into that line of service, I started my local government career with the City of Lancaster as the Assistant to the City Manager.”
Young, motivated and ambitious, it only took Mr. Neal two short years with the City until his well deserved promotion in January 2021. Carey’s quick rise through the ranks is a direct reflection of Carey’s enthusiasm for continuous learning and growth, and passion for helping people.
“The greatest reward is being able to interact with the people of Lancaster on a personal basis, listening to their concerns and hearing first hand what’s troubling them, and ultimately creating a plan that will fix these issues. It’s great just being able to help the community and see it grow and flourish as a result.”
He credits his love of the job to his residents and takes just as much joy in his own work as he does in seeing community members getting involved in city operations via boards, commissions, or even just by giving feedback. In his process of working with residents, Carey is also excited to share with them his own passion for local government. “Generally, people don’t know about the role of local government, so teaching people about what we do everyday, like ordinances, what they are and how they affect them is important.”
As a public servant, Carey has seen how public perception has changed towards local governments, particularly within the last year. “Now more than ever people are looking towards their local governments for assistance. They’re seeing that we’re the ones who can provide certain services for and fix things. So now all eyes are on local governments rather than federal or state level, for residents to get the help they need.” And Carey is happy to oblige.
“Even during the pandemic, it has drawn me closer to loving local government and what we do. Over the course of the pandemic we were able to offer programs for residents such as residential assistance, child care assistance, utility assistance, and support for seniors. We always found a way to innovate. Now more than ever, just being able to see how we continue operations and provide services to people has been an incredibly beneficial and very rewarding experience for myself.”
As he looks towards the future, Carey shows no signs of slowing down. “The ultimate goal is to one day be a City Manager. I have the distinct pleasure everyday to serve along Opal Mauldin-Jones, who I would say is a legend in local government. She’s absolutely awesome and to be able to sit next to her and learn from her absolutely puts my mind at ease that I know one day I’ll be sitting in the city manager’s chair. Not necessarily in her position but fulfilling the position somewhere when the opportunity presents itself.”