From his office on Second Avenue East, Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler can see a lot of history. The municipal offices are situated amid the lattice-like pattern of streets that has made up the heart of downtown Twin since its inception in 1904. Magic Bowl across the street, recently renamed Magic Town Center, has been a downtown staple for decades. His office shares a corner with Waite Electric Company, which got started in the 1960s.
These days, though, Rothweiler is doing a lot of looking into the future – while being mindful of the past, he’s quick to add.
“Every day, people here come to work to create a better Twin Falls,” he says. “Our job is to preserve the things that made it great, and to make those things better. That’s why I enjoy coming to work.”
Family tradition wouldn’t have put him here, however. If his parents had their way, Rothweiler would still be living in Big Sky Country.
Rothweiler, a fourth-generation Montanan, is a disappointment to his parents for one reason: he left and didn’t come back.
When talking about his childhood in Great Falls, Rothweiler fondly uses words like “idyllic” and “almost make-believe.” He and his parents, a teacher and a clothing store manager, lived within four blocks of all four of his grandparents. Rothweiler caught the fever for fly-fishing as a boy, scouring the Ruby, Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers for big catches alongside his father and grandfathers. He attended school in Great Falls and only went as far as Montana State University in Bozeman for college.
Not sure what he wanted to do with his career, Rothweiler toyed with being an attorney, an architect – “but calculus was not a friend of mine” – and a teacher. Then, as a sophomore, he became involved in student government. He had joined a fraternity, the Gamma Kappa chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, and part of membership meant that he needed to be involved in something school-related outside of Greek life. He became a Greek senator for the Associated Students of Montana State University, and eventually served as student body vice president and then interim student body president. That’s when he started to see his future unfolding.
“All those experiences showed me I really wanted a career in politics,” Rothweiler says, “but I really don’t like the whole political arena. What I found was that local government was the place I felt I could really contribute.”
He graduated with a political science degree and earned a master’s in public administration in 1998, and during school and post-graduation, he worked in all levels of government. He worked for a senator in Washington, D.C., serving as assistant to the majority leader, and interned for the city of Bozeman.
Then, at age 28, Rothweiler truly left his Montana roots: he came to Idaho to be the city administrator for Jerome.
For eight years, Rothweiler oversaw the day-to-day goings-on for Jerome. He is most proud of the growth of economic expansion he saw during his tenure and the team environment he helped build among the city leaders.
Slowly, he says, he “transitioned into an Idahoan.” It was in Idaho that he met his wife, Amy.
It didn’t start well. The two were set up on a blind date that both would describe as disastrous, and each agreed there wouldn’t be a second date. Six months later, Rothweiler was putting together a workshop for Jerome employees and ended up hiring Amy to help, knowing of her background in organizational development. At the end of her contract with the city, in January 2003, the two decided to give another date a try. He met her parents the week of Valentine’s Day and they were engaged a week later. On March 28, the pair eloped to the Jerome County Courthouse.
“This was after we had everything paid for the wedding,” Rothweiler says, laughing.
The Rothweilers had an official wedding ceremony in August, which the groom says is how he married the same woman twice in one year without getting divorced.
In 2008, the family moved to the “big city” and Rothweiler became the assistant city manager in Twin Falls. In April 2011, he was promoted to city manager.
Rothweiler says his number-one motto is “family first.” He and Amy, a high school counselor, have two boys, 8 and 6. His dream is to take the boys to Fenway Park to watch his beloved team play.
“They have to be Red Sox fans,” he says matter-of-factly. “They can be closet fans of someone else, but their college tuition might be on the line.”
Rothweiler says the fist time his wife ever saw him cry was when the Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
An athlete himself, he is currently training to compete in an Iron Man triathlon for the first time in June. He was encouraged by watching his wife compete in a similar event.
“We were cheering Mom on and she was so excited, and we were so proud,” he says. “I wanted to be that way, too.”
Besides feeling great, Rothweiler says being active is something that lends itself to his professional goals.
“I won’t win. But my goal is to finish in 12 hours,” he says. “I feel like, just to say I competed and finished is something others can look to. Part of our strategic plan is to be a healthy community, and as a leader, I should probably work hard to live those values we’re trying to teach.”
Today in Twin Falls
On a day-to-day basis, Rothweiler admits he sits through a lot of meetings, but it’s all part of a bigger plan. Shortly after becoming assistant city manager, he introduced the city leaders to the ideas of High Performance Organization, a framework for management that is designed to improve organizational performance and make it sustainable. Rothweiler received training on the topic at the University of Virginia in 2003, and he attended the university’s Senior Executive Institute in 2007. Using these principles, the city has developed what they call the “One City” initiative.
“One City fully describes my vision for the city of Twin Falls: to be an organization that empowers all, collaborates fully, communicates extensively and strives for excellence in the delivery of services to all our customers,” Rothweiler says.
This lends well to Rothweiler’s extensive – “some would say annoying” – use of sports metaphors. A city, he says, is like a team, and that’s how you produce quality results: by working as a team.
“I believe that leadership is the work of all, regardless of their official role within the organization,” says Rothweiler.
With these ideas in mind, Twin Falls is taking a long-lens approach to the future: the current “game plan” is the City of Twin Falls’ 2030 Strategic Plan, of which Rothweiler was an integral designer. The plan was formed in 2012 to help Twin Falls keep pace with changing times and be able to attract, maintain and serve members of the community. The city, in its capacity as a commercial, educational and health care hub and as county seat of the region, serves approximately 75,000 customers daily. They’re planning for quite a population influx, too – the plan estimates nearly 70,000 people will call Twin Falls home in 2030, up from the current 46,500.
One of the most important cogs in this wheel of progress is the Economic Development Ready Team, which Rothweiler established and created. The team’s objective has been to vet potential business expansion and promote growth, and team members include the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency, the College of Southern Idaho and the Greater Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, among others. The team has seen significant “wins” for their efforts, including bringing Glanbia Cheese, Clif Bar Inc., and Chobani Greek Yogurt to Twin Falls, the last of which built the world’s largest Greek yogurt facility right in the city.
“Chobani was a ray of hope during the recession,” Rothweiler says. “Its presence has really raised the quality of life in Twin Falls.”
Community leaders cite Rothweiler’s contributions in particular as essential to projects like the Chobani acquisition.
“With Travis’ dynamic leadership, our community has experienced upwards of $1 billion in capital investments by private companies and the creation of some 5,000 jobs,” says Shawn Barigar, mayor of Twin Falls.
Another main focus is revitalizing downtown. Much of the city’s growth of late has happened on the north side of the city, near the edge of the Snake River Canyon, and the older sections of Twin Falls have fallen on harder times. Plans for downtown include razing the old Rogerson building, which Rothweiler describes as currently “hanging together with duct tape,” and creating a public gathering place, featuring farmers’ markets, concerts and a splash park. It’s a hard vision for some long-time residents to catch, but Rothweiler believes it will become even better than the “rich gem” it was years ago.
“It takes a willingness to look beyond yourself, to see what is in the best interest of the organization and to find a way to help it accomplish its vision, mission and dreams,” says Brian Pike, deputy city manager and former police chief. “I believe Mr. Rothweiler has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in influencing the direction of our city.”
Rothweiler is also excited about Twin Falls hosting the summer games of the Idaho Special Olympics later this year. It will be the first time Twin Falls has hosted the event.
Lots of change is coming to the area, and it’s that kind of measurable success that Rothweiler says makes his work in local government so satisfying.
“If you can support and celebrate public service, it’s the place you can see the fruits of your labor,” Rothweiler says. “We hustle, we scrap, we do everything we can as a team, recognizing that the work we’re doing is far bigger than we are as individuals.”
Any success he’s had, he says, has come as a team win, not by himself alone.
“I don’t put out fires. I don’t arrest bad guys. I don’t work at waste treatment facilities,” he says. “Together, we’re preserving a history, but also preparing for a community to transform as time moves on. That’s the piece of public service that I get really excited about.”