How Emily Alt Has Worn Many Hats (and Costumes, and Masks Too) During COVID-19

The SFPUC’s External Affairs’ Sustainability, Planning, and Budget Manager Emily Alt is known for many things: her expert management of the SFPUC’s External Affairs budget, commitment to data-based decision making, and flair for creative homemade costumes to name a few. When the City activated a shelter-in-place order in early March, Alt stepped up to serve an ongoing role with the SFPUC’s emergency Department Operations Center (DOC). For the past four months, Alt has juggled her regular workload with DOC service while utilizing her creativity and passion for costumes to enhance her team’s remote work experience.  

Emily Alt on the job supporting the SFPUC’s DOC with a view of City Hall behind her.

During normal times, Alt manages the External Affairs budget, facilitates the SFPUC’s Strategic Plan, and oversees the revamp of the SFPUC’s Sustainability Program. Her tenure at the DOC has relied heavily on her skillset in data analysis, Power BI, process improvements, and big-picture thinking.  

“In my DOC role, I manage the internal system for SFPUC employees to submit questions related to the COVID-19 crisis. I triage responses to the appropriate contacts, track questions by category and response, and elevate major themes to senior leadership and the communications team.” 

Alt’s work drives content development decisions around employee communications and newsletters. It also helps the SPFUC understand staff concerns around topics like remote work and childcare that influence long-term recovery planning. Recently, Alt analyzed results from an agency-wide employee survey while managing and tracking follow ups. Her work is critical to agency decisions around protecting employee health and safety and the prioritization of DOC initiatives. For example, staff questions submitted via email and results from the employee survey illuminated lack of office equipment as a key concern for employees working remotely and led the SFPUC to set up a Lending Library. 

Facilitating the SFPUC’s response to employee concerns gives Alt a first hand look at the flexibility and innovation of those leading the agency’s emergency response efforts. Alt shared, “The amount of work everyone at the SPUC is doing is hugely commendable. To respond to employee concerns, we are reimaging what’s possible, changing policies that has been in the books for decades, and making sure that we are basing our communication on what people want to hear about versus just what we want to tell people.”  

Emily Alt (bottom right) and Community Benefits staff members dressed up for a team meeting.
Beyond costumes, Emily Alt enjoys exercising and hanging out with her beagle-mix, appropriately called Beagle.

Outside of her DOC duties, Alt is also a seasoned SFPUC Halloween costume contest participant and overall costume aficionado. To build comradery at the Community Benefit’s remote team meetings, Alt shows up in a different wig or mask each week and encourages teammates to dress up to different themes.  

“I am a huge costumiere and own over 40 wigs and masks. I am originally from Michigan and I loved moving out here because you can dress up at literally any time in San Francisco and no one will look at you weirdly.” 

Alt’s energy, enthusiasm, and innovation is an asset to the SFPUC team during both emergency and regular times.  

Emily Alt as Marie Antoinette.