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#WHM2024, Part 3: Things Change Quickly

March 30, 2024, Amy-Jo Sites, MPA, CAWA

Our three-part series in honor of Women’s History Month wraps up with smart advice and a strong dose of resilience from the Director of Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control.

I’ve thought a lot about my experiences as a woman leader in animal welfare, especially when I realize I’ll be retiring in less than ten years. As much as I would love to not have to focus on gender, it’s still a factor when working in a municipal agency. My predecessor at Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control (also a female) provided me a decent foundation of what to expect when stepping into the position with the current programs and practices in place.  

But what I didn’t know was how to change things to move the shelter into more current practices. 

Because things change so quickly, understanding the process on how to implement new programs or receive support from key stakeholders would have reduced the roadblocks I faced over the last few years. For my first four years as Director, I had to present our budget, proposed ordinance changes and even interlocal agreements to an all-male City Council. It was frustrating for me to see other department heads who happen to be male propose more controversial items or who work with budgets three times the size of ours, but had no questions asked of them nor any cuts proposed. When I went to the table to present what was needed, I often either left with a majority vote against me, had to accept significant cuts, or make a trade where I’d have to reduce one thing to get another.  

After almost every appearance, I was applauded by other department heads within the City for being able to present the information effectively, even when met with minimal support from those at the table. During the last election, I was excited for the possibility of less opposition when two females gained seats at City Council. The support of the other department heads, and even kudos from the Deputy Mayor, fueled me to continue speaking up for what my department needed. I am thankful for those individuals who helped me to realize I have the knowledge and confidence to overcome the challenges. 

Things have gotten better, but I can’t say it was because of my efforts alone.  Under the guidance of our City Controller, I was encouraged to have my supervisor, the Chief of Police (who is male), have joint meetings with members of City Council and me as we prepared for our budgets, which included additional staff and a significant increase of funding for various services. The positive about those meetings was not only gaining their support for what we were requesting, but also for them to listen to what we do for the City. Though the Chief of Police still accompanies me at the table during budget hearings, it’s more of a sense of solidarity and reminder to City Council that our department is part of the Public Safety Division.

We can’t control others, but what we can do is arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible to support our requests. Having a well thought-out argument makes it hard for people to say no, regardless of who’s presenting the information. I think it’s important to remember in every profession, things change quickly. Ensuring we are provided the opportunity to learn the most up- to-date ‘best practices’ is key for those who are in a leadership position. 

More #WHM2024

#WHM2024, Part I: Plenty of Light to Go Around
#WHM2024, Part II: Nothing Short of Fearless

About Amy-Jo Sites, MPA, CAWA
Amy-Jo Sites, MPA, CAWA, began her shelter career in 2004 as the office supervisor at Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. She was promoted to Deputy Director in 2011, and then in 2016 was named Director. A lifelong learner, she holds a BS in Criminal Justice and an MA in Public Affairs, and is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator. Amy-Jo has testified before lawmakers on behalf of several proposed bills to strengthen cruelty and neglect and exotic animal laws for Indiana. Her hope Fort Wayne AC&C is to be a resource for the community for all their animal needs, as well as to continue to be advocates for those animals in neglectful situations. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her husband, daughter, and Carley the Great Dane. Amy-Jo loves to be outdoors, is an avid runner and exercise enthusiast, and volunteers as a co-leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop.

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