Speaker Spotlight Q&A: Kevin Rants: Chief Administrative Officer, Colorado Department of Public Safety

Author avatar
Paris Armstrong 8 August 2023
Speaker Spotlight Q&A: Kevin Rants: Chief Administrative Officer, Colorado Department of Public Safety

We recently caught up with Kevin Rants to chat about his role as Chief Administrative Officer at Colorado Department of Public Safety, his career in public service, and much more. 

Q1: Please tell us a bit about what you do, how you got there, and what you love about your work?

For the past five years, I have had the pleasure to serve as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Safety.  In this role, I lead a team of 120 employees who provide internal administrative support functions for our financial and logistics requirements across the department.  Specifically, my teams cover accounting, budget and policy, purchasing and contracts, fleet management, material management (warehousing/supplies), facilities management, capital development and wildland fire specialized logistics capabilities.  Additionally – my team provides internal support across our own division for our operating budgets, travel, commercial credit cards and IT personnel who support the department.  Working alongside the Human Resources Office and Compliance Office, we provide these functions in support of the operational requirements of the Executive Director’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the Division of Criminal Justice.

Prior to starting with the Department of Public Safety in 2015, I served 21 years on active duty in the US Army as a logistics officer retiring in 2015 from Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.  Shortly after retiring, I was hired by the Colorado State Patrol as the Support Services Director providing internal logistics support to CSP for fleet management, automotive services, material management, facilities management and capital development.  In 2016, the Executive Director initiated an administrative services consolidation combining the internal support functions resident in the divisions to form a division level support capability within the Executive Directors Office.  Through that consolidation, I was tapped to form and lead the new Logistics Services Section through combining the law enforcement and fire service logistics units.  In 2018, I was again asked to step into a new role and become the department’s first Chief Administrative Officer with oversight of both the logistics section and our financial services sections.  

What I love most about my job is the ability to synchronize the capabilities on my team to support the requirements of our customers and to know that from every patrol car we build, every fire engine we service, every purchase order we issue or contract we negotiate, every budget request we successfully run through the legislature to every accounting balance sheet we manage, every wildfire we pay for and every invoice we pay, we are making a difference and enabling our divisions to safeguard lives.  

Q2: What initially drew you to public service? How has that evolved since the beginning of your career?

While I can’t necessarily pinpoint an exact moment where my mindset moved from the excitement of a particular job to the fulfillment that comes through a dedication to public service, I have been serving the public in one capacity or another for 29 years now.  I really believe that the foundation was a strong sense of service and pride in the country passed down through my grandfather and father, both of whom preceded me in service to the country through the US Army.  I was destined to be a Soldier, and that career serving our country led to a passion for public service that I continued with my transition to the state after retirement.  This role I am in now has transformed my public service lense a bit as I can focus uniquely on my contributions to Colorado and to my agency, but that fire still burns as strong as it did while I in the military.

Q3: What made you gravitate towards operations and administration within the public sector? What continues to drive your passion for this and how does that manifest itself?

Great question.  Functionally, I think what makes a public sector senior program manager or executive leader successful is bringing the operations, logistics and administrative mindset to their programs or divisions.  There is an incredible amount of synergy and natural pairings in the administrative world that I love to leverage.  What keeps me interested and focused in this area is the enjoyment of managing the lifecycle of organizational progress.  For example, understanding how public sector money is appropriated, working within that framework to supplement budgets for major efforts and then having the know how to procure that through effective purchasing processes, accounting for those expenditures and sustaining the product or service is powerful – and easier once you know the point to point requirements and times associated.  My team and I are most effective when we combine our capabilities to meet our customers requirements.

Q4: Who has been a strong role model for you in your career? Can you explain why, and how, they inspired you or helped you succeed?

I’ve never really had a single strong role model in my career, but I have been surrounded by both strong and not so strong leaders over the past 29 years that have taught me a lot.  I’ve always approached the subject of modeling as an opportunity to develop individually and champion the process of emulation for those starting their leadership or public service journey.  Through those 29 years, I’ve taken things away from each person I worked for, some good things I wanted to incorporate, some bad things I wanted to ensure I didn’t incorporate.  That, combined with continuous assessments (am I doing things right, am I doing the right things, what do I need to do better) has led me to where I am today.  

Q5: What advice would you give to the younger generation of operations and administration professionals and, more broadly, the next generation of public servants? What is one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you when you were just beginning your career?

Love this question.  My advice would be to learn, learn about the systems, how they work, who the experts are in those areas, and don’t be afraid to explore the unknown.  You don’t have to be the expert in everything, just know who those experts are and how to work within their framework.  The one piece of advice I wish I would have had planted into my head at a young age – explore all those scratchy feeling opportunities where and when they come, never be the ‘it’s not my job’ person, but be that ‘I don’t know the answer at the moment but we’ll figure it out’ person.  The latter is the person who develops that reputation for getting things done and it is these opportunities that lead to relationships with those subject matter experts that allow you to master the other governmental systems and processes that will make you successful.

Q6: How has your outlook and approach to your work changed in the COVID-19 era? What key lessons have you learned and applied?

COVID has been a game changer for us in many ways.  Hybrid work is now the norm, my employees are working longer hours and our access is almost instant now as chat and virtual meetings replaced the more traditional in-person meetings and conference room scheduling.   This has caused us to look different at communication, total person care, resilience training (hybrid workers are isolated), out of work social activities and most importantly, figuring out how to build a culture with a distributed work force.  We were not immune to the great resignation that occurred in 2021, and we experienced a significant change in many of our professional financial positions, so we’re not the same team today that we were in February 2020, yet I wouldn’t trade this transformation for anything as my team of today is more resilient, more adaptable, more engaged and we’re better for it.  What I appreciate the most from our experience working though COVID is we’ve gained the opportunity to care for the total employee, not just the 9-5 employee.   Wellness is now part of our daily lexicon, compassion and concern of employee health is part of our fabric, and we’re structured better to enable mental health and wellbeing.  It’s no longer a service, it’s part of our culture. 

To hear more from Kevin join us at the upcoming Government Innovation Colorado showcase on September 27th. 

Learn more about the event and register your complimentary ticket today! 

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2024 Government Innovation Show - Colorado
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Paris Armstrong TEST2, Public Sector Network