Coming into this fellowship I was very excited at the notion of spearheading a project, any project, something that would have lasting meaning and fill a need in the community. I’m not sure why, but the fact that it had to be something tangible was a goal of mine and something that I spoke with other fellows about. We’ve done a lot of readings in class about intentions in public service and the importance of coming in, hearing the community’s needs, and collaborating from there to create change. So when my first project was handed down to me, I was thrilled. The project, redesigning the city’s website. Having heard several complaints about the city’s website and having had difficulty navigating it myself I knew this project would check the boxes that I had for myself, lasting meaning and fulfilling a need.
What I didn’t know was how long the process would take. The project started at the beginning of October and didn’t end until the end of December. However, we didn’t have training on how to use features until the second week of January so in total the project was nearly 4 months. The old city website was just that, old and outdated. The new website templates provided to us through GovOffice brought the city into the 21st century updating some much-needed accessibility issues and giving the city overall a more organized, clean, and polished look. With this upgrade came a plethora of meetings, choices, and edits. I have never picked paint samples but that is what I liken the process of choosing website templates to. Every template had its pros and cons and could fit our needs but wasn’t exactly the right fit. However, once we tackled that process came the process of updating the pictures on the website. Several of the pictures were outdated and since we were getting a new website my supervisor suggested getting new pictures along with it. Taking pictures was the most fun of all the stages of the website. I got to meet with departments and learn about what they do while staging photos. I got to climb to the top of the iconic water tower, all 264 steps! I also got to travel and explore a little bit more of what Elizabeth City has to offer through Parks and Recreation, plus, the weather was beautiful. That being said, every picture on the city’s website was taken by yours truly.
Once I had done everything required of me we waited. We waited for the drafts to come through, sent them back, and waited some more. Once the drafting of the web design was done we were passed off to the content creator. A little more waiting and then finally a sample “live site.” Getting to the live site was the final step before the big transition. To the outside world, the transition was quite simple. They typed in the city website and a different version of the website appeared, all the content the same just a different layout and different pictures. To me, that transition was 4 months of emails, zoom calls, edits, and filtering through pictures. It goes to show that change happens quietly and in the background, a lesson that I needed to be reminded of. More often than not, change in local government is slow, but just because you can’t see it happening doesn’t mean it isn’t. I am so proud of the website, proud that it is easier to navigate, that it is aesthetically pleasing, and that it is something tangible that I can look back on and say that I did. Here’s to making more slow, quiet change throughout the rest of my fellowship!