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PYSK: Matt Unrein, Deputy City Manager

Matt Unrein

Deputy City Manager, city of Columbia

Job description: The deputy city manager is responsible for providing superintendence and support to several departments. I am part of the city manager’s executive team charged with implementing the budget objectives, plans, and priorities of the mayor and City Council. I assist the city manager in addressing the day-to-day operation of the city and its many parts. 

Professional background: Twenty-seven years of local government experience in communities all over Missouri.  

Hometown: Blue Springs, MO 

Years lived in Columbia or Central Missouri: Just moved back to COMO, but I lived in Columbia during my last few years in college. 

Favorite volunteer/community activity: I have been a member of a number of civic groups and I strongly believe community service is one of the most fulfilling experiences a person can have. I am pretty handy so I most enjoy fixing or building things on someone’s home. 

Favorite recent project: Just a couple months ago I volunteered at a St. Louis area food bank with about twenty-five other city managers. It was a lot of fun! 

What people should know about your profession: My profession consists of a lot of selfless individuals who spend countless hours making a difference in other people’s hometowns. We manage municipal corporations, making them work better at the request of the community and its elected officials. It’s a great job! 

Why you are passionate about your job: I really enjoy helping people and improving the community. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with being part of a team of people and accomplishing great things. 

If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would: If I wasn’t a city manager I’d probably be doing something outside with my hands.  

The big challenges facing your industry: The largest challenge facing my profession is the loss of confidence in government. Local government is the best example of your tax dollars being spent on projects and priorities that impact your daily life. And I think we are doing a darn good job and we get it right a whole lot more often than not! 

Favorite quote:

“Government must keep pace with the progress of the people.”

— Millard Fillmore

Your next professional goal: At this point in my career, I have pretty much done it all, but I am very much enjoying my second time around many of these issues. 

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my field: Listen first. Issues are complex and it’s best to listen and involve all who are affected in the decision-making process. 

How you want to impact your community or your state: I believe I am part of a team of professionals who are passionate about what they do and we make great things happen.  

Greatest strength: My greatest strength is my ability to gauge assets, abilities, and organizations and figure out how best to use them. 

Greatest weakness: My weakness would be I have very high expectations and sometimes those are difficult to reach. 

What you do for fun: I am a frustrated golfer, an infrequent fisherman, and a practicing woodworker. All things I will further hone in retirement. 

Who makes up your family: I have a fantastic family; three adult children and a fiancé.  

Favorite places in Central Missouri: My favorites: Getting steak at G&D Steakhouse, a glass of wine at the Les Bourgeois, and a nice bourbon neat at the Vault in the Tiger Hotel (no cell service). 

Other favorite Missouri getaways that might not be as well known: I’d recommend breakfast with Bloody Mary’s with your favorite person at Benton Park Cafe in St. Louis, a plate of burnt ends at Zardas BBQ in Blue Springs, and a beer at O’Malley’s pub in Weston. 

Accomplishment you are most proud of: Early in my career I worked directly with low-moderate income homeowners to repair and update their homes through a federal grant program. There is an immense amount of joy that comes from being able to make a difference in a person’s life through the improvement of their home. I believe they were all truly thankful for my work. 

Most people don’t know that you: I have a collection of plaid shirts to rival anyone’s closest; more hunting trips gone wrong stories than any man should; and an appreciation of home improvement projects suffered under Murphy’s law like no other.

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