Nothing is Impossible: Building a Parking Division from the Ground Up


Nothing is Impossible: Building a Parking Division from the Ground Up

It was the Fall of 2020, and I was the Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation at Kansas State University. We had returned from our Covid-19 furlough only eight weeks prior, and we were all still reeling from the consequences of lost permit revenue and a hybrid student population. We didn’t quite yet know how, but we knew our department would be changing. It had to. We no longer had the revenue to support our operations AND do the much-needed maintenance on our lots as we had planned.


As I sat at my desk, elbows deep in parking data, I heard the voice of my Director, Jeff, standing in my doorway. “The City wants to discuss how we can take over parking enforcement for them.”


I looked up from my laptop, giving him a look that could only be described as a monkey doing a math problem, and I replied with a very confused, “What?”


He proceeded to tell me that the City of Manhattan would be opening their new garage, dubbed the Aggieville Garage, sometime in the Spring of 2022, and they were going to charge for parking. Well, this was a problem because they didn’t have a parking department. Who was going to oversee the garage? The City of Manhattan had one parking enforcement officer, Heath Romine, and to my knowledge, he still chalked tires and enforced the 3-hour-only parking in Aggieville and Downtown. If they are going to charge for parking, they need some type of revenue control system. Are they going to sell permits? How are they going to enforce it? PARCS or LPR? I had so many questions. Jeff and I spent the next hour spitballing ideas back and forth, working through roadblocks and potential problems. Jeff was resistant to the idea. I was looking at our revenue shortfall and seeing how we could use this as an opportunity to make up the difference.


We met with the City about a month later hear their plans. It became abundantly clear that they had no idea what all was involved in running a parking program. They showed us the outlay of the garage, where the entrance and exit were located, and where the gates would go. I quickly intercepted the conversation and advised them against gates. The garage was in the party district of town. From my experience working in Downtown San Diego and Ybor City in the Tampa Bay area, the last thing you are going to want is gates. I explained how costly they were to replace, which they would be doing often, and why they would be replacing them. Neither Jeff nor I left that meeting with any sort of warm and fuzzies about running their parking for them.


Over the next year, we met a couple more times, but it became clear that a University/City partnership was not going to work, and I was one of the only people in the meetings enthusiastic about the idea. However, I stayed in touch with the Assistant City Manager. I was curious about how the project was going and what questions they had, and I told them I was available to assist them as needed. In the Fall of 2021, the ACM reached out to me and told me that the City Commission approved the hiring of a Parking Manager and asked if I would help them write the job description. As I sat back in my chair looking at the email I had just received, I came to the realization that whoever they hire would have to hit the ground running but also would get the opportunity to build the department from scratch.


Who gets that opportunity these days? I grabbed my project notebook and started jotting down my own thoughts. We need pay stations. We need a pay-by-app option. We need enforcement hours. Hell, we need a pricing structure. How much is it going to cost to operate the garage? As I looked at my long list of questions, I noticed I had written “we,” not “they.” Did I really want this job? I knew nothing about the politics of Manhattan, Kansas. I didn’t even live there. I knew nothing about working for a municipality. And my success rate at working for start-ups was like 50%. 


But it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I would get to build an entire parking division. I sat on that email for a couple of days, thinking it over. If I didn’t want the job, writing the job description wouldn’t be much of a thought really. But if I did, I would want to make sure that they only thought of me when they went to fill the role. Little did I know that they already wanted to hire me, and they were just going through the motions because, legally, they had a process they must follow.


 If I did throw my hat in the ring, I would have to learn how a local government works. I would have to network and get to know community members and organizations and make myself visible. The working hours in the beginning alone would be exhausting. But I wanted it. I wanted the challenge. I might be a little crazy, but I believe that nothing is truly impossible or out of reach, and I can do anything I put my mind to. 


When I finally did decide this was what I wanted to do, I responded with a copy of my current job description, additional responsibilities this person would be entrusted with, and certifications/education requirements that would be preferred. I met with the ACM a few weeks later, and he asked me what my salary requirements would be for the role and if I would apply.


Fast forward three months later to February of 2022, and after a very brief interview process, I was sitting in a cubicle at City Hall with a computer and a New Hire packet lying in front of me. Our new garage was opening in April, and I had no staff or parking management partners. I didn’t even have an office yet. I wish I could say that I spent that first week getting to know the lay of the land, but I didn’t have time for that. I was just going to have to roll with it and become very good at pivoting. 


It was time to get to work. I knew for certain we didn’t have time to procure LPR equipment, pay stations, permit software, and enforcement vehicles. I only had eight weeks. I couldn’t procure a scooter in that time, let alone two enforcement vehicles. Maybe by August, I could pull that off. This was going to be the first hard conversation I was going to have with Leadership. I was given my division budget, which was written by our Parks and Rec department. I noticed landscaping equipment, vehicles, and a horticulturalist budgeted, in addition to 3 supervisors I didn’t need. This was going to be the next hard conversation I was going to have. And finally, our rates. We could not afford free parking despite what was being demanded of us. I knew the next nine months were going to be a whirlwind. It ended up being more than I ever could have anticipated.


This is the first in a series of Parking Today articles to be written by Adrienne Tucker. Look for the next installment in our August issue.


Adrienne Tucker, CAPP, is the Parking Services Manager for the City of Manhattan, Kansas. With over two decades of parking and mobility experience, Adrienne has worked in multiple sectors, including hospital, hospitality, university, and now municipality. Excelling at strategic planning, program development, and building relationships, Tucker is continuously looking for ways to improve processes and procedures, stay active and engaged in the parking community, and champion professional development for herself and her staff. She can be reached at

Article contributed by:
Adrienne Tucker, City of Manhattan, Kansas
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