Job description:

I lead and direct all of the City’s human resources and employee benefits programs. So that’s part compliance, part PR, part negotiator, part mediator, part enforcer, part consultant.

 

Years lived in Columbia/Mid-Missouri:

Forty-three. I came to Columbia to attend MU and left for only a couple of years before I came back to stay.

 

Original hometown:

Nevada, Missouri.

 

Education:

BA in English literature and a master’s in public administration, both from MU.

 

Favorite volunteer/community activity:

I served on the Job Point board for four years and saw lives changed every day by the work of the staff. Currently, I serve on the HR committee for the Boys and Girls Club.

 

Professional background:

Public service is an inherited family trait. Only four of my many working years have been outside government service. I worked in state government for higher education, the legislature, and economic development. I fell into a human resources role in state government and have stuck with HR work for 24 years. I have served the City of Columbia for almost 19 years total.

 

Why I’m passionate about my job:

HR work is centered on people: putting people to work, helping employees learn and advance, solving problems to make things better, and ultimately serving our citizens and customers.

 

Why I’m passionate about my company:

The work we do at the City is all about making this community better.

A favorite recent project:

My biggest project right now is not at work — it’s doing things that will improve my odds of being around a long time. I learned to run, by which I mean jogging slowly, with a great group from work, and I completed a 5K last May. I’m going to do it again!

 

A Columbia businessperson I admire and why:

Anyone who runs for city council!  It’s not the same as state or federal elected officials — your constituents are right next door.

 

Biggest lesson learned in business:

If you screw up, admit it, figure out how to fix it, and move on. And if you’re in public service in Columbia, avoid having your name above the fold on the front page of any newspaper!

 

My next professional goal:

I love my job at the City. When I’m ready, I’d like a “retirement” job that’s meaningful.

 

If I weren’t doing this for a living, I would:

Be an archaeologist. It’s history outside — what could be better? Or I’d do stand-up comedy, because you never know what employees will say or do that’s funny. Or I’d be a pirate. I really like pirates.

 

The next challenge facing my industry:

For public employers, retaining employees is becoming more and more difficult.

 

What people should know about this profession:

Thick skin is required. It’s impossible to make everyone happy in HR work. And you have to be a rule follower!

 

Greatest strength:

Honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

Greatest weakness:

I overcommit — it’s hard for me to say no.

 

What I do for fun:

Read, run, and go to Mizzou football games.

 

Family:

Husband of almost 28 years, Kevin Buckler; son, Morgan, who is 20; two or three dogs, depending on where Morgan is; and one apparently bulimic cat.

 

Favorite place in Columbia:

The MKT Trail and the ARC are my sane spaces.

 

Accomplishment I’m most proud of:

Establishing an “opportunities for excellence” fund in my mom’s name at the English department at MU.

 

Most people don’t know that I:

Am legally named Margaret Grace — my southern mom called us by our first and middle names. What came out of my mouth instead was “Margrace.”

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