Associate commissioner, Customer Service and Government Relations, NYC Department of Sanitation
Not long after Maria Termini-Miller was hired at the New York City Sanitation Department, she wrote an informational guide called “It Ain’t Just Garbage.”
The guide’s title is an apt description for the department and also Termini-Miller’s career: While sanitation brings to mind picking up trash, the work encompasses much more.
“I learned quickly that we do snow removal, we clean the streets, we enforce the rules and regulations,” said Termini- Miller, who started at the agency in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become an associate commissioner. “One day I’m dealing with planting trees, another day with enforcement issues, another day we’re talking about experimenting with a new piece of equipment to make the job more efficient. It’s incredible how much there is to do here.”
She meets with elected officials and community groups, works on issues like alternateside parking, overflowing trash receptacles, and dog poop, and even coordinates with nonprofits to revitalize vacant lots.
At first she wasn’t sure if it was the right fit, since she had studied teaching and was interested in journalism and creative writing. But when she was promoted to deputy director of community affairs, she began doing outreach, writing department literature and training staff.
“All of a sudden it dawned on me: This is where I want to be,” she said. “I enjoyed teaching, and that’s what I was doing. I enjoy writing, and that’s what I was doing. I enjoy the political world and political science and government, and I was dealing with those aspects of it. So it all came together. It wasn’t a job at that point—it became a career.”
How did you get your start?
In 1978 I began my career in government working for Community Board 5 in Queens, and I was lucky enough to land a position assisting that office. I helped the local residents obtain city services and navigate through the city bureaucracies of various agencies, since there was no 311 back then.
On balance, has being a woman helped or hurt?
Being a woman helps with my career and with the particular job that I have. I think women intuitively are good listeners. I think women are good at establishing and maintaining relationships. I think women are good at following up. I think women tend to be sympathetic. All of these skills come naturally to women—to me, anyway.
What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?
Early on in my career I was told that if I wanted to work with a city agency in city government, not to work for a uniformed agency, because as a civilian there’s really no career ladder. I’m glad I did not take that advice, because nothing could be further from the truth.
Tags: alternate side parking, Community Board, Department of Sanitation, garbage, Government, Jon Lentz, Maria Termini-Miller, New York, New York City, New York City Sanitation Department, non-profits, politics, Queens, Sanitation, trash, trees
Trackback from your site.