Staff Chats: Cate Eckenrode, Budget

Hear from City staff about their COVID-19 work, how they're staying connected and what they hope to learn from community members like you.

What excites you about your work?

CE: I get nerdy when I talk about what I do with FC Lean because it truly ties into the City of Fort Collins’ vision, mission and values. Our vision is to provide world-class municipal services through operational excellence and a culture of innovation. The part that excites me is the connection between innovation and outstanding service and collaboration. Everyday I work with City staff to deliver more efficient and effective City services to our community. Some people think of innovation as a big new idea, but it can be as simple as looking at the work that you do with fresh eyes and an open mind. I get to work with City staff on everyday innovations to make forms easier, service delivery faster and more consistent, and increase capacity to do more. Their creativity and willingness to try new things is inspiring. We listen to each other, work together and brainstorm solutions. And we have a lot of fun doing it, too. The impacts of small improvements are huge. I am grateful to play a role in helping people become better problem solvers for themselves, their workgroups and our community.

How are neighbors helping each other during this difficult time?

CE: In my role as a Process Improvement Specialist with FC Lean, I served on the team that created the processes and structure for our Adopt a Neighbor program which expanded in April to better serve our community through the COVID-19 crisis. To date, more than 400 people have registered to volunteer to help at-risk neighbors with outside chores, grocery and prescription pick-up, and other tasks. The way our community has come together from volunteering to donations to buying local has been inspiring. I’ve seen people step up in small ways to ensure that their neighbors feel supported and less lonely during this time. The stories from Adopt a Neighbor and outpouring of support for our non-profit community are full of meaningful donations of time, talent and treasure to offer a support system to each other.

What’s been the most challenging/rewarding part of your job the last few months?

CE: The work that we do in FC Lean is built on collaboration and teamwork and has relied heavily on bringing people together to facilitate continuous improvements. The transition from in-person to virtual meetings was a challenge for our team. We offer training, coaching and facilitating on continuous improvement so transitioning all three of those services to a virtual format was hard to imagine at first. How can we continue to assist staff in their continuous improvement work as well as facilitate process creation in response to the crisis? It took a few weeks but together Roland Guerrero, FC Lean Program Manager, and I retooled our Lean Basics course from an all-day in person format to multi-session webinar format. We’ve held four sessions since April and even opened the course up to community members who are interested in taking advantage of our services. In addition to our training courses, we were able to transition to virtual facilitation and coaching on process improvement projects using multiple online tools. It’s a new world but has been extremely rewarding to continue to help people build efficiency, efficacy and capacity in their work areas. If any community non-profits or business would like to learn more about what FC Lean does and how we can help please email us at or visit us at

How are you staying connected with people outside of your household?

CE: I’ve taken to heart what our Chief Human Resources Officer Teresa Roche said early in the crisis: practice physical distancing and social solidarity. I’ve looked for ways to stay connected to my friends and family. I’ve participated in virtual happy hours and physically distant driveway happy hours. My work group has a thirty-minute check-in every week where we’re not allowed to talk about work at all and it’s fun to just hear about their lives and how they’re doing. I even did a book and puzzle trade with a friend. In April, I started sending cards to friends and family who don’t live nearby. It’s nice to put pen to paper again and just check-in and say I’m thinking about you. It’s time for another round of those cards.

What’s one thing you’ve learned during the pandemic?

CE: The one thing I’ve learned is how to slow down properly. I’ve had to build new daily routines because everything from home to work life was upended by the pandemic. I’ve started reading the books that were on my side table that I was too busy to pick up before. I have a new morning routine that includes enjoying and not just drinking my coffee. I even bought myself a meditation cushion for my birthday as a reward for getting my meditation practice back into swing. I‘m more mindful about how I’m spending my time and not just getting things done or checked off a list. It’s been nice to slow down with purpose and rebuild my time with meaning.

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