When Your Resume Includes a Parking Garage Worth Bragging About

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to urban changemakers and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together 40 top young urban leaders. Michael Kaufmann is a member of the 2014 Vanguard class.

Michael Kaufmann

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Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to urban changemakers and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together 40 top young urban leaders. Michael Kaufmann is a member of the 2014 Vanguard class.

Name: Michael Kaufmann

Current Occupation: Director of Special Projects and Civic Investment, Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County

Hometown: Escondido, California

Current City: Indianapolis

I drink: Green tea

I am an: Outgoing introvert

I get to work by: Bike and car

The area I grew up in is: Suburbs

What do you do when you are not working? I do more work, managing the musician/bands Son Lux, Oliver Blank, Hanna Benn and Olga Bell. But I also enjoy spending time with my beautiful family: my wife and two sons.

What do you like most about your current job? Hands down, I would have to say my two amazing bosses. I feel like I have learned a doctoral-level amount about leadership in my last four years of employment. They lead with incredible grace and humility, yet know when to exert their authority. One very concrete example of this was watching them walk down the long hallway of our previous public hospital facility, and each of them occasionally bending over to pick up a small article of trash. It left quite an impression on me as it both communicated that they demand excellence, and that no one is above helping maintain and keep our facility clean and welcoming.

What is the coolest project you worked on? This is a toss-up between our parking garage and our Sky Farm. I wouldn’t usually brag about a parking garage, but I had the opportunity to manage the installation of the largest piece of sculptural art in the state of Indiana. This was part of our larger public art program throughout our new public hospital campus. Our Sky Farm is on the roof of our six-story outpatient building and has 5,000 square feet of growing space, complete with a dedicated sky farmer, who not only grows food but also provides nutrition and gardening education.

The parking garage turned art installation at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis

What are the hard parts about your job? In addition to my work with the hospital, I am also working on our city’s bicentennial planning, an effort called Plan 2020, as well as working with our chamber and our community foundation to develop and attract talent to our city. Unfortunately, the recent RFRA legislation has dramatically set us back as far as an attractive city and state for creatives and progressive citizens. However, I have not lost hope and am reminded that I choose to live in Indy because I wanted to make a difference, and being progressive is far more impactful in cities with something at stake.

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? We need to find a common language and strategy around the issue of equity and inclusion so that we can actually begin the work of including people! Cities also need to embrace “local” and regionalism in much deeper and profound ways to reduce their dependency on overstretched food and energy infrastructures. In other words, we need to become more self-reliant in our ability to feed and power our individual geographies.

Eskenazi’s “Sky Farm”

What makes a successful leader? The ability to relate to those different than you through finding a common starting point and language. The ability to translate between various constituencies and understanding the difference between effective democratic decision-making versus trying to make everyone happy.

What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? While this might not be game-changing, I have been working on a project to soundtrack our entire city through the commissioning of site-specific composition. The project, called Sound Expeditions, was recently launched in partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art and our first contribution was from Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. You can listen to the track here.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? Not sure where or from whom I heard this, but my personal mantra as of late is “work smarter, not harder.” I also like the concept of doing three things well, as opposed to many things just OK.

Who do you most admire? Recently I have been very proud of our mayor, Greg Ballard, for his clear and bold stand on RFRA.

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Tags: next city vanguard

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