CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 24, 2015 — Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Mark Durbin of Kissimmee, Florida, couldn’t let go of his passion to change the small part of the world he lives in, even in retirement. His love for his community and the people he served as city manager for 31 years, still shows through in everything he does.
As city manager of Kissimmee, Florida, Mark was the chief executive officer of the city, overseeing all employees and the budget. When he took over, the city had a population of 25,000 and over time grew to 62,000. This increased his responsibilities from 132 employees to a staggering 950 employees.
The city manager is involved in every aspect of government including police, fire, public works and recreation.
“There is never a dull moment,” Mark says. “It can be challenging dealing with elected officials, managing employees, overseeing a large budget and helping citizens.”
He previously served as the assistant to the city manager in Ferguson, Missouri, for two years, city administrator for the city of Trenton, Missouri for two years and city administrator of Sedalia, Missouri for four and a half years prior to his 23 years in Kissimmee. For the last five years, he has continued to serve the profession as a volunteer senior advisor with the International City Managers Association. Mark mentors younger managers, speaks at conferences, assists city councils when they are searching for a new city manager and facilitates strategic planning workshops with city councils. In fact, this is all he ever wanted to do.
While attending Southeast, Mark earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Since a Master of Public Administration was not available at the time at Southeast, he enrolled in the University of Missouri-Columbia and obtained his master’s degree.
“I actually never had any intention of going into business. My father was the City Administrator in Kirkwood, and I had decided that I wanted to go into the city management profession,” he said. “Dad advised me to get a business degree, because a lot of the skills I would learn in a business program would help me in city management, and it would be something I could fall back on if I decided I didn’t like city management. The personnel management, finance, accounting and negotiating skills I learned in the business administration program at SEMO was put to use every day of my career in city government.”
Mark credits his father for steering him on his career path.
“My father was a tremendous influence in my choice of careers,” he said. “For most of my childhood, he had been the police chief for the City of Kirkwood, and when I was 15, he was promoted to city administrator. As I was trying to decide what I wanted to do, I became fascinated with the wide variety of the work he was doing in city government.”
He chose Southeast for numerous reasons but the main one was his desire to go away for college.
This turned out to be a great decision in Mark’s eyes.
“I loved the campus, my dorm, my professors and the City of Cape Girardeau,” Mark said. “With small class sizes, I never felt like I was just a number at SEMO, and I had lots of access to my professors. I don’t believe that I could have received as good an education anywhere else. And I really believe that the environment at SEMO encouraged me to become a leader. I immediately got involved in my dorm, eventually becoming a resident assistant.”
You can find Mark today traveling, hiking and playing inline (roller) hockey. Every October, he takes part in an inline hockey tournament in the 50-and-over division and the 60- and- over division, which takes place in Las Vegas. Every year, he and his wife take a six-week road trip to different parts of the country. They have visited every state except Hawaii, Alaska and Delaware. Even his hobbies are about serving his community. In addition to his volunteer work with the City Managers Association, he serves on a statewide non-profit board of directors, a local non-profit board of directors and on a local quasi-governmental board of directors. At his church, he has been helping in the administrative functions as well as teaching Bible study classes.
“You may not be able to change the world, but you can change your part of the world,” Mark says.
To Southeast students he offers this advice:
“Never forget that life is a long journey. We need to determine our purpose as quickly as possible and work steadily to achieve that purpose. As we travel along the road of life, we must remember to find balance by working hard, relaxing often, serving others and never stop improving ourselves,” Mark says.