AMES, Iowa – For Mary Beth Sprouse, working with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach was a natural fit. The Ames native is a fourth-generation Iowa State graduate who majored in exercise and sports science, and health and human performance, and obtained a master’s degree in public administration.
Her father was an Iowa State professor, and her grandfather had an appointment with engineering extension as well.
“I enjoyed the teaching atmosphere,” she said. “I’ve been around it all my life."
Her new job with ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development is a perfect move. Sprouse recently was hired as a local government specialist, helping cities and municipal workers get the resources they need to succeed and thrive.
“To do stuff I really love, that’s the reason I got into city work,” she said. “And to combine it with teaching and being part of extension, it seemed like a good next step.”
Sprouse began as director of recreation for the city of Boone, spending three years there before “getting bit by the government bug” and returning to Iowa State for her master’s. She spent 10 years with the city of Slater as a clerk and city administrator, which gives her unique perspective on those she now serves.
“I get to share things that I have learned when I was working in cities with other people,” she said. “All of the things we do to help other cities with their struggles is rewarding, and there are so many struggles. You can talk to someone who’s having a real bad day in a city and say, ‘I understand, I’ve been there, here are some suggestions.’”
Sprouse wears “so many hats,” in her words, including helping cities with budgeting questions, annual reporting, presentations, updates and working with county and township officials.
“Anything in the government realm is fair game,” she said.
Letting municipal workers know about all available resources is important.
“We try to get the resources we have more in front of the people who need them, so they know they have more resources than (they think),” she said. “For everyone who needs help, here are some additional things we can do to help you.”
She also will be working as the director of the Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy, where Sprouse admits she has “really big shoes to fill” with the retirement of Cindy Kendall.
“It’s like Madonna; Cindy’s on a first-name basis,” she said. “I hope to do as well as she has.”
She shadowed Kendall this summer and hopes to expand available offerings including new start-up programs and more entry-level instruction for new clerks. Sprouse wants people to have all the resources they need to get help.
“Sometimes we have people taking the more in-depth classes that are comfortable in the position, but it’s hard to start off," she said. "There’s no set of college classes you can take to start in a city. A lot of people jump in not completely knowing what the job is going to entail. It’s very complicated, with a lot of pieces, reports and analysis. Residents are both watching what you’re doing and thinking they know what you do. It makes it a very interesting job."