Update: Sean Brandon is now chief of the Management Services Bureau for the City of Savannah, a division that encompasses mobility and parking, as well as research and budget, human resources, purcasing, revenue, recorder's court, research library and archives, and vehicle maintenance.

Sean Brandon is following the career path he seemed destined for at a young age. At 12, after watching the film Star Wars, he wanted to know: How many people live on the death star? What do they do with their trash? Do they have some kind of transportation system to get around? He was already thinking like a person in city management. These days, Brandon not only knows all about the transportation system in his adopted home of Savannah, GA, he manages it.

As the city’s first Director of Mobility and Parking, Brandon oversees transportation services including taxis, tours, water ferries, downtown transportation, a 4,000 space parking system, a bike plan, and a newly revived streetcar system

After graduating from the UNC MPA Program, Brandon interned for Savannah city government before being hired as management services coordinator and then appointed assistant to the city manager, The transition to his newest position has been fluid in some ways: Sean had become increasingly involved in transportation issues and the city manager saw an opportunity to bring all of the transportation functions for this growing city together under one new umbrella. “We had never had to think about congestion management in Savannah until a few years ago,” Brandon says. “It seems that almost overnight our population exploded.”


His responsibilities have exploded as well, moving from management a couple of people to nearly 100. “Everything I had learned at the MPA Program about personnel law had been put in a repository in the back of my mind until I really needed it,” he says. “And now, I definitely need it.”

The MPA Program’s emphasis on collaborative teamwork has also been invaluable as Brandon’s responsibilities have grown. “When someone comes to me with an idea, I say ‘grab three people and get to work on it.’ They’re sometimes surprised. Big ideas are easy for one person to have, but what can get in the way are the millions of details that come after. Collaborating helps you run through those details. One person will miss something; five people can usually touch on everything.”

With that many people in his department, and the myriad of interactions and negotiations that take place every day, Brandon says he utilizes another skill emphasized in the MPA Program. “People tend to talk on two levels: what they’re willing to say in public, and what they hope you’re going to get from what they’re saying. That requires a lot of active listening,” he says. “It’s the sort of skill that, when you don’t have it, it’s glaring. When you do, people start depending on you.”


Underlying Brandon’s management training and skills lies an early and lasting impulse to consider the welfare of citizens – in the fantasy world of Star Wars or the real community of Savannah. “The idea of public service permeates the UNC MPA program,” Brandon says, “in the way the professors carry themselves, in the administration, and in the other students. There’s an overwhelming sense there of “doing good.” It doesn’t even need to be talked about. It just is.”

Photo of Savannah waterfront courtesy of