Serving The Public
Coconino County Manager
1979 BS in Applied Sociology; 1990 MPA in Public Administration
Making personal connections is the key to successfully serving the public for Coconino County Manager Steve Peru. In this role, Peru serves as chief executive officer of Coconino County, and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the county government. Good relationships are critical, Peru says, to implementing policies, responding to citizens, and setting leadership standards. He dedicates his spare time to improving the community in other ways, serving on the boards of the Flagstaff Medical Center and the United Way of Northern Arizona. Peru says the common theme to his success is the ability to establish relationships, a skill he learned while a student at Northern Arizona University.
"My undergraduate degree in applied Sociology (emphasis in Social Work) is based on the ability to establish relationships," Peru says. "When you get down to it, the ability to connect with individuals on a personal level is important. It is a key component of social work. This foundation has allowed me to be successful in what I am doing now."
Peru has served Coconino County for 31 years, first as an intern, then working his way up to the top position. During that time, he's made it his mission to bring a face to the government to ensure that citizens deal with people, not bureaucracy.
"The ability to connect with individuals on a personal level is important. I use that in terms of how we manage county governments so we are not being a stereotypical government. There is a face to it. There are people behind it," says Peru. "The county is larger than the country of Switzerland. How do we go out there and establish relationships? It is a challenging task. But it is important to me as the county manager here and, of course it is important to our board of supervisors, that we put a face to government. And all of that goes back to the teachings that I had."
The connection to the university remains strong for Peru. He goes to as many events as he can fit in his schedule, he says. This year he will also join the university's Alumni Association board of directors. Serving NAU is important to Peru because, he says, the university helped pave the way to his success.
"While an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to secure an internship at the county community services department with the help of my advisor," he says. "After I interned with them for several months, I was fortunate enough to stay on as an employee. That's what opened the door for me to be in county government."
Between the internship and his current role as County Manager, Peru served in several positions related to county operations, including ones related to training, finance, and elections. After a long and successful career, Peru has words of wisdom for today's students.
"Become involved with the university. Enjoy all the aspects of the university life: clubs, committees, student government," Peru advises. "It is easy to become very connected with instructors at NAU because typically the faculty provides hands-on instruction. The faculty can help mold your future careers."