North STAR

North STARs are awarded to outstanding leaders. The North STAR winners are:

Mary Ellen Heng, deputy city attorney
Criminal Division, City Attorney’s Office

Paralegal Heidi Jensen nominated Heng for transforming the morale and culture of the City Attorney’s Office since being named deputy.

“Morale has more than improved. In a large part it is because Heng is fair in dealing with office politics and problems. She listens equally to each side of a story and gives consideration to all sides. She doesn’t have to rule with an iron fist, because her staff respects her opinions. She is open to alternative ideas and criticism. Heng is a master at managing and resolving conflict. She communicates clearly, honestly and effectively. I know when I walk into her office with an issue, she will listen and that I can say anything I need to without fear of repercussion. She leads quietly by example, is an expert problem solver, and is absolutely willing to generate and implement new ideas. The City is truly fortunate to have a supervisor of her quality.

“Heng really inspires her staff to do their best work and works tirelessly to provide them with the resources needed. She sticks her neck out in dealing with other departments or agencies. If technology is needed, she doesn’t hesitate to advocate for it. If interdepartmental or interagency cooperation is needed to make staff jobs more efficient, Heng is the first to pick up the phone and reach out ... She consistently looks for and finds new resources and builds bridges with other agencies and departments that contribute to a more efficient City Attorney's Office.

“Since taking office, Heng has absolutely transformed the culture of the Criminal Division in the City Attorney’s Office. I have never had a better supervisor and believe that most people in the office would agree wholeheartedly. Staff morale in the Criminal Division has turned 180 degrees since she was made deputy … She is communicative, just, concerned and wholly engaged.

“Additionally, Heng motivates and develops her people. She encourages and empowers others by finding opportunities for staff to learn new skills and emboldens them to develop career paths that lead to upward mobility. She delegates tasks to people who wish to learn new skills or develop unused talents and helps them to succeed by actively participating in their process if needed. She is not afraid to take a chance on people. She takes an interest in, follows and supports people in new roles and projects, allowing people the space to learn. She encourages people to better their positions by approving classes and learning opportunities, finding new and challenging assignments for them, and giving them room to fail and learn from mistakes. She never sets people up to fail, but instead mentors and coaches her people.

“Heng exceeds the standards of an everyday supervisor … She truly values her staff and never hesitates to give credit where it is due. Also, she protects and stands up for her staff. Staff is free to come to her at any time to voice ideas, concerns, etc. and she makes herself available to them at all times. Her open-door policy and understanding nature really contribute to her employees striving to do the highest quality work for her and the City. She is trusted by staff and returns the same. She gives her staff the freedom to make decisions and contributions and to make mistakes.

“Heng really has a personal connection with each of her staff members. We know that she cares what is happening to us in the workplace, as well as in our personal lives. Not only is she concerned with helping each of her employees better their work situations and develop their careers, she goes far above and beyond even outside of work. She has helped a staff member who was going through a rough time in her life paint her house, never hesitates to ask what an employee needs either in or out of the workplace, and is very aware of what is happening in each of her staff members’ lives. Heng truly cares about the well­being of her employees and shows it time and time again.”

Published Feb 22, 2017

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