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How to be Extraordinary

with Casey Lucius, Assistant City Manager of Marco Island, Florida

“To be extraordinary, be willing to do what no one else wants to do.” In this episode Casey Lucius shares with us the best advice she has ever received and how it can help anyone become extraordinary.

You can watch it above or listen on your favorite podcast platform: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript below:

Ron (00:35):
We’re live. Well, Ryan, good to have you here.

Ryan (00:38):

Ron (00:39):
I see the beautiful trees behind you. Is that the Ohio behind you?

Ryan (00:45):
Yeah, it’s our big maple tree out back.

Ron (00:48):
Is it really? Yeah. Ryan just moved to Ohio, you know. Oh, well he was in Thailand much of the cold time of the year, but, but then now he’s in Ohio.

Casey (01:00):
Ohio for the hot time of the year.

Ryan (01:02):

Casey (01:04):
The one month where it’s really hot. <laugh>,

Ron (01:06):
Right? <laugh>, yeah.

Ryan (01:08):
Ohio’s nice this time of year.

Casey (01:09):
I’m from Ohio.

Ron (01:10):
Oh, really? You are, aren’t you?

Casey (01:12):
Yeah. I love Ohio, except for about eight months out of the year where I don’t love Ohio.

Ryan (01:17):
Yeah, that’s <laugh>, that’s, that’s how I feel about Ohio <laugh>.

Ron (01:21):
Well, anyway, and also with, this is Casey Lucius. You see her name down there. Casey is from Ohio, as she mentioned originally, but she’s traveled much of the world including spending time in Hawaii in Vietnam, in California, and now she lives in Florida. And and along the way she got her master’s degree or PhD in political science. So it’ll be fun to kind of talk with Casey. And actually a lot of this discussion will be, she’ll be talking about her life because I dunno, it’s just the way the topic of discussion goes today where it’s kind of a little bit more personal. And it’ll be interesting to hear from Casey as she talks about her experience. But today, actually we are very fortunate have Casey with us, because we’re going to be talking about something that is unusual, I think, among the city managers and assistant city managers we’ve spoke to. Casey thought she wanted to talk about a piece of advice that she received in her life that made a big difference. And I just thought, wow, what a topic, you know advice you’ve received. And I bet you we could do that with nearly any city manager. But I’m glad you came up with it, Casey, and I’m glad we’re gonna talk about that today. Thanks. Tell us a little bit about what that advice was and you know, the setting.

Casey (02:47):
Okay, so I was actually in college in Ohio at Ashland University, and one of my professors, whose name was Peter Schramm, he was the director of the Ashbrook. And one of my mentors I was talking to him and he asked me, you know, what was I gonna do when I graduated from college? And I remember telling him, you know, I had these lofty goals. I was gonna go work at the Pentagon, and I was gonna make policy and, you know, I was gonna run the national government. And I remember he just kind of laughed at me and said, no, you’re not gonna do that. You’re 21 and 21 year olds don’t go to the Pentagon and make policy. So he said, you know, he, he just kind of shook his head at me and he said, if you want to be extraordinary, be willing to do what no one else wants to do.

So at the time, I don’t know if I really made much of that piece of advice, but it definitely sunk in with me because later, I didn’t go to the Pentagon. I actually ended up after college going to Officer Candidate School and joining the Navy. And you know, not thinking about his advice, but I joined the Navy went to intelligence training school in Virginia Beach. And after six months of Intel training I had about 25 people in our, in our class. And the detailer, the military detailer is the person who assigns you to your duty station. He comes in the room and he writes like 25 different duty stations on the whiteboard. And he says to the class, okay, there’s 25 of you, there are 25 duty assignments, you guys figure it out. You know, figure out where you’re gonna go.

And there were great assignments there. There was Greenland and Hawaii and Spain the Pentagon was on the list, and there were great assignments, and everyone was, you know, arguing and picking which place they wanted to go. And there was one ship on the list, it was an aircraft carrier, and no one wanted to go to the ship. And that’s when Dr. Schram’s advice popped in my head, if you wanna be extraordinary, be willing to do what no one else wants to do. And I sat there thinking, okay, no one wants to go to the ship, so there’s, there’s gotta be something to this. I should go to the ship. So I raised my hand and volunteered to go to the ship, and I did, I spent two years on an aircraft carrier. And,

Ron (05:28):
And did the detailer realize that nobody wanted the ship and that, like was this something that, or or did he just think you wanted to go be on the ship?

Casey (05:37):
I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t know that he thought anything of it. but like, clearly there was a deployment, you know, if you go on a ship, you’re gonna be deployed. And at that time, they were deploying, this was before September 11th, but we were still deploying people to the Middle East and to Iraq. at that time we had sanctions against Iraq. And so I think the idea was whoever goes to that ship is gonna be deployed to the Middle East, and that’s probably why a lot of people didn’t want it. <laugh>, <laugh>, I didn’t know any better, so <laugh> <laugh>. So I thought, sure, two years on this ship, what can go wrong? <laugh>? So, so yeah, I don’t know that he really commented or thought anything, but it did come back around with that same detailer because, you know, fast forward.

Ron (06:26):
Wait, wait, wait. Before we get to the detailer, tell us about this life on the ship. Like what was that about?

Casey (06:32):
it was, it was fascinating actually. It was, you know, 5,000 people on an aircraft carrier and an aircraft carrier’s like a little town, you know, they have a store, they have a barbershop, they have a doctor’s office, they have a dentist. Yeah. I mean, it’s not like a luxury cruise. There’s no bowling alley or movie theater or anything like that. But you know, I, I had a state room, I was an officer, so I had a state room that I shared. There were four of us, four women in a state room. And you know, and there’s like a laundry room where you do your laundry and and you work, you pretty much do nothing but work because there’s nothing else to do. So you work very long days, you know, 16, 18 hour days, and you work out and you eat and sleep, and that’s about all there is to do.

But you know, as an intelligence officer, what, what I was doing specifically was we were, we were implementing the oil for food program. So part of us sanctions against Iraq was that if they sold oil, they had to use that money to buy food for the Iraqi people. And so we monitored all the oil that was coming out of Iraq on tankers, and and then if there was illegal oil, we would detain those ships and inspect the ships and sometimes divert the ships to other countries. And that was it. It was just really fascinating to kind of see all of that take place and be a part of that you know, be a part of UN sanctions. They weren’t just US sanctions, it was United Nations. So to be part of foreign policy, like on a global level was really, and I was, you know, 21 years old. So it was incredible. It was really neat. So, and then I also was the division officer, so there was a division of enlisted intelligence specialist who who worked for me. So that was also really my first job where I was in a manager or a supervisory position, had an opportunity to learn a little bit about leadership and motivating, you know, motivating others, leading others. And so at a very young age, it was a, it was a really, really great work experience for me. So,

Ron (08:55):
Yeah. But your two years came to an end.

Casey (08:57):
My two years came to an end, and as, as it got close to that two years, the you know, you have to call the detailer and say, okay, I am at the end of my tour, where do I go next? And and when I called that same person, that same person who had walked into the classroom, he said, oh, I remember you, you were the only one who was willing to go to the ship, so now you get your first choice, where do you wanna go? And <laugh>. And I said, I wanna go to graduate school, and I want the Navy to pay for it <laugh>. And he said, okay. And he sent me to Monterey, California, where I went to the Naval Postgraduate School and got a graduate degree in National Security Affairs. The Navy paid for it. And, and I met my husband there. And I, you know, I attribute that to taking that advice and just being willing to step up when nobody else wanted to step up and, you know, be willing to take the, the tough job or the unknown job. And and it paid off. So that’s why I always tell people that’s the best advice I was ever given.

Ron (10:13):
Wow. Wow. Yeah. And so when you were in getting your master’s degree, was it just full-time school, just like nothing, you had no job responsibility,

Casey (10:23):
Right. Yeah, that became, that was my full-time job to just go to school full-time. and would that

Ron (10:30):
Be a, would that be a life, I mean, that’s really great in Monterey, California.

Casey (10:34):
Yeah, it was wonderful. I lived in Monterey, California for two years and just went to graduate school full-time. Did you ever go

Ron (10:40):
Scuba diving out in Monterey? It’s supposed to be great scuba diving there,

Casey (10:44):
Probably, but the water’s too cold for me. <laugh>, <laugh>

Ryan (10:48):
Need a dry suit.

Casey (10:49):
But I did from there, get to go to Hawaii, so where the water is much warmer. And and it, you know, a similar thing happened in Hawaii when I got to ho after getting my degree, the Navy sent me to Hawaii to the Pacific Fleet headquarters. And another thing happened where my boss, I worked for the Intel commander. He was a Navy captain, and he said he said, okay, you know, the big boss, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, who’s a four star admiral, wants an intel brief every morning at 7:00 AM So somebody’s gonna have to work overnight to gather all the information, compile it, analyze it, put it into a presentation, and brief him at 7:00 AM. And you know, of course nobody wanted to do that.

Nobody wanted to work, you know, come in at midnight and work all night and prepare that. And again, it was just one of those moments where if you wanna be extraordinary, be willing to do what no one else wants to do. And I just thought, okay, no one else wants to do this, I’ll do it. And so I did that for three years, worked the night shift, and two really great things came out of that. One was that every morning I got face time with not only my boss, but my boss’s boss, and got to brief, again, international events, things that are going on all around the world that I got to brief a four star admiral on. And then the second really great thing that came out of it was I got off work in the morning, nine o’clock in the morning, and I had the rest of the day free. And so I used my GI bill and went to the University of Hawaii to get my PhD. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that. I wouldn’t have had the time to do that if, you know, if I were working, you know, sort of normal daytime hours. So it, you know, that afforded me that opportunity to go to school for my PhD, which again, what, it just wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been willing to take on that assignment.

Ron (12:58):
Well, and an and an intelligence officer who every day got to get do the briefing, briefing to the admiral, right? How, how cool is that? You probably knew things that well, no one else knew except for the you in leadership, right? Who got to get that daily briefing. That was, did you present that daily briefing live? Like, would you just go through it and present all the information?

Casey (13:19):
Yes, yes. So yeah, live in person, you know, it was, it was great. So yeah, I felt like not only do I get to see the boss every day, but again, I’m, I’m also kind of privy to all this really great, you know, these global activities that are happening and national security activities and making recommendations for, you know, foreign policy and, and military policy and military actions. And so, and you know, by this time I was, you know, 25 or 26, I guess. And so again, just to have that opportunity at a young age was great, great training, great learning. And I, again, I attribute it all back to Dr. Schramm. So he changed my life, you know,

Ron (14:14):
You know, I, I guess it’s unusual for anyone to say, if you want to get, if you wanna become extraordinary, do something no one else is willing to do, because there’s the belief that you’ll get caught doing all of the grunt work. You know, you’ll, you’ll get stuck in a, in a role where nobody wants to do that role, and that’s your job. You know what I mean? And, but somehow that’s not how it worked out for you.

Casey (14:41):
Yeah, I think that’s true. and in, you know, I, in some cases I have gotten stuck doing the grunt work, <laugh> <laugh> because it’s the jobs that no one else wants. But I think you know, and I, I haven’t always been the best at setting, you know, boundaries for myself or saying no, but I guess that’s because I, I always believe that if you, if you perform well and you show your value, you won’t be doing the grunt work for long because someone will see your capabilities and your you know, your value and your potential. So most of the time it has worked out well that do, being willing to just open up and do anything and see anything as an opportunity has always led to a greater opportunity.

Ron (15:39):
Do you know? And as I think about it, if you are a person who has real potential and a great amount of capability, and I, I don’t think it is something you would ever have to be afraid of, right? Because you can, you, you distinguish yourself by your willingness to serve, and you also show a little bit of humility that people really do value in people who are bright and capable, you know, and oftentimes bright and capable people become manipulators, and they, you know, they try to do, you know what I mean? They just try to force their, they try to force their way up rather than, rather than just distinguish themselves in in other, other ways. I just think it’s a great story.

Casey (16:29):
Yeah. And I think that and I use this, you know, when I’m interviewing people and, and hiring people, I always think, you know, someone may not have the exact experience you’re looking for, or they may not have the right skillset or, or educational background that you’re looking for. But if they have a learning mentality, if they’re willing to try and learn and be open, I, I feel like, you know, that’s more important than having specific experience or education because the learning mentality you know, pretty much, I, I believe, you know, if you’re willing to learn, you can learn to do any job. And so a lot of these things I get myself into, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m willing to learn <laugh>, I’m willing to try.

Ron (17:19):
So you’re an assistant city manager now, right? And how in the world did you make the transition from the Navy, to where you were at.To you know, to your role in government and, and local government, you know, how did you make that transition?

Casey (17:40):
Okay, so this is kind of a funny story. I I worked in federal government. So after I got out of the Navy, I worked for the State Department for a little while, and then went back to work for the Department of Defense as a civilian. So I worked in federal government for about 15 years. And and in 2012, I ran for city council in a small town in California. And but let me give you the backstory. So <laugh>, my, so my husband and I bought a house our first home. We bought a, a little house, starter house in a small town called Pacific Grove, California. And a neighbor came to the door, like we had just moved in, and he said, will you sign this petition? We wanna get a speed bump added to this street so people won’t speed. And I thought, okay, I signed the petition.

And about a week later he comes back and he says well, we got the signatures, now we have to go present this to the traffic safety committee. Would you be willing to come to this meeting and, you know, be with this group of people to present it? I said, oh, okay, sure, I’ll, I’ll go to the meeting and be part of this presentation. And then like a week later, he comes back to my door again and he says, well, you know, I can’t be there to make this presentation. Can you make the presentation to the traffic advisory committee? And so I said, well, okay, sure, you know, I’ll go and I’ll present about the speed bump, you know, like, I’ve lived here three weeks and now I’m making a presentation about a speed bump. So so I went to that meeting and did the presentation, and at the end of that meeting, a lady who was on the committee came up to me and she said, you know, we have a vacancy on the traffic safety committee or whatever they were called.

And she said, would you like to serve on our committee? And I thought, well, okay, sure, <laugh>. So, so the next thing you know, I’m on the advisory committee for the city to advise them on traffic safety issues. And I did that for a couple years, I guess. So that must’ve been, I started that endeavor in like 2009 when we moved into the house. So did that for a couple years. And then somebody said to me, you know, you’ve been so great on this committee, you should really run for city council. Like, that’s the next step. And so I thought, oh, okay, I’ll run for city council. And so in 2012, I ran for city council and served on the local city council for four years till 2016. And I tell people that story because I say it just started with a speed bump.

Like my <laugh>, my entree in the local government started with a speed bump, literally. And so I, when I was on city council, I really, really enjoyed being on city council, but I also learned something important about myself. So the city council makes policy and I love policy, right? I, I studied political science, I got a PhD in political decision making, I love policy. But what I realized being on city council is, you know, what I like more than policy is I like operations. I like doing the work. I like actually seeing things get done. I like the implementation, I like the outcomes, I like the metrics, I like the operational side. So I, after doing that for four years, I thought, you know, I, as much as I enjoy the policy making part of it, I don’t really have to be the decision maker. I like to execute. So anyway, getting out of all of that, in 2016, I started doing some consulting with local governments in California. Then we moved to Florida. I did some consulting here in Florida for a few years, and then I landed with the city of Marco Island, which I love, and I love my job.

Ron (21:52):
So fun. So fun. <laugh>, you know what, what a great experience. And I, I do think there’s a lot of merit to saying if you wanna be extraordinary, be willing to do the thing that others are not so willing to do. And, and and in truth, in truth, you just became a servant in my view, through it. And I just think people who are willing to become servants when they have the capability of being a leader anyway are like, it is really a wise move, you know, that Thank you. Servant leadership is a great role.

Casey (22:29):
Yeah, thank you. I mean, I think it, it, it sounds like I made some great sacrifice by taking on these roles, but actually and maybe it was at the time, I don’t, you know, I don’t know, I don’t think of it that way, but I think ultimately ended up working out well for me, you know, it worked out well for the organization that I worked for because it met their needs, but it also worked out really well for me because it always opened another door to an even better opportunity.

Ron (22:57):
Yeah. A door to education, a door to meeting other leaders. yeah, so smart and

Ryan (23:04):
Well done. And it’s easy to be, to be concerned that the payoff will be five or 10 years down the road, right? Like, okay, I’m gonna do a, do a difficult job, something nobody wants to do, and maybe something good will come in 10 years. But it seems like with your experiences, you seemed, you were able to see how you’re getting immediately rewarded, whether it was time with the boss or time for your education or all these things. and I think that takes a certain amount of optimism and perspective to see that there are immediate benefits to doing the difficult jobs as well as,

Casey (23:39):
Yeah, long term. I think that’s a really good point. Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, because a lot of times people think, oh, you know, yeah, this might pay off in the long term, but I’m gonna have to wait a long time for that mm-hmm. <affirmative>. but it’s, it’s all perspective and attitude and you know, what, what you make of it, I think, which is so much definitely, you know, so much in life, right?

Ron (24:03):
Yeah. No, I love it. Ryan, let’s, let’s go in a little bit different direction here. thinking of advice, if you had advice to give to someone, do you have anything in mind you’d tell someone? Like, what’s, what’s the big learning in your life? And you’d, if somebody were graduating school or looking for a pathway upward and, and they asked you what you thought, what would you tell ’em?

Ryan (24:33):
well, one quote came to mind as we were having this discussion from Thomas Edison that he said, opportunity is missed because it’s stressed in overalls and looks like work. and so that’s one thing which is very similar to doing things that other people don’t wanna do, doing the hard work, and that that is the opportunity instead of waiting for your big break or someone to just hand you what you want, you have to work for it. how about you, Ron? what, do you have any advice to share? You

Ron (25:04):
Know, if I had advice to give to someone, I think it’d be welcome, change. And my core nature is I love things just running perfectly. You know, I like to have this little environment where I have everything under control and I’ve got things in place, and change can be a little bit daunting, but when I think about my own life, like I had a great job that, that I was in, and, and the company I was with failed. And I found myself out of a job and I was a senior leader making a great salary. And I’m going, wait a minute, you know, I lost a job and, and what do I do now? And, and so of course you scramble and you look for opportunities. And ultimately and I won’t go through the full story because that’s the story in and of itself, but ultimately, I landed a job at Coca-Cola and not only was it with Coca-Cola, like I was in banking, I went from banking to Coca-Cola and then, but not only was it with Coca-Cola, but was in Asia, and I had no experience with Asia.

And so I had a career change, industry change, geography change, meaning like a, an entirely different culture. And and it was a huge, it was a huge impact in my life. But you know what, like, it was all the difference. It my long-term happiness as a person because like, like I was good where I was at, but I was more stagnant than I should have been. And I got pushed out of the nest. And this change forced upon me a lot, you know, that like, I became like as, as far as a researcher goes, like on steroids, better than I was, but before because of my experience with Coke. And then the time came when I needed to leave Coke and I left k on good terms, but I left Koch and, and started my own company and I hadn’t, I had kind of wanted to start a company, but that was a big change.

I had never run a company before. I had never, you know, I had always been with a big company where the researchers came to us. I had never been a company where like I had to figure this stuff out for myself, you know? And like, it was huge. It was huge to do that. And the, then the final change is this one, I had a city leader approach me at my own company, and he loved the work. Like he wanted to have the kind of thing we were producing because when I was at Coca-Cola and when, when I was at the bank, like I learned how to do research in ways other researchers just don’t know how to do because I was helping senior leaders make decisions of these companies. And I learned how to do things that others just don’t know how to do.

So when, and in my company, we were doing those things for companies, but a city leader wanted to have me help him with his survey because he goes, look, I know cities, but I don’t know, I don’t know, research the way, you know, research, would you help us? I said, well, I don’t know cities, if you’re okay with that kind of a gap, you know? And he was okay. And we gave him a great product. You know, it’s the kind of thing I would’ve given to any of my senior leaders at the other companies that I was at. And he just loved it. But, you know, I found that I loved helping city leaders. Like I loved that. And and it was another change, you know, ’cause I abandoned, like helping all the big companies, and I just said, I’m gonna help city leaders. And I think all of those changes have strengthened me time over. So welcome change, and sometimes like, don’t be afraid of it at all. and, but you just go for it, you know, put your head down, makes the best of that, whatever that moment is. But I’d say welcome change would be my, my

Casey (28:56):
Other one. I like that. I think that’s good advice.

Ron (28:59):
Yeah. Do you have another one, Casey? Well, what, what, what advice would you give to someone?

Casey (29:04):
Yeah, I was thinking about, you know, last summer we have a a summer camp here on Marco Island at our parks and rec department. And I remember the parks manager called me and she was having a hard time with the counselors. And the counselors are all college kids. And she said, you know, the counselors are being more difficult than the little kids <laugh>, and can you come and talk to them? And so I went there and I talked to them and I remember I said to them you know, basically they were, I think just being kind of dramatic and bringing personal issues to the workplace and things like that. And so I talked to them and I asked them, you know, we got all the counselors in a room. And I said to them, okay, what’s your job here? And they said, oh, we’re camp counselors.

And I said, no, that’s not your job. That’s a title. And they said, I said, what’s your job? And they said, oh, our job is to keep the kids safe. I said, no, that’s not your job. That’s just a task. And you know, we went through this multiple times. I asked them, what is your job? What is your job? And they kept throwing things out and I just kept saying, no, no, no. And finally what I got to was you have one job, and I think this applies to a lot of people, but definitely young people today who are just starting out is, I would say, you have one job and that is to make your boss’s job easier. And and then I went on to tell them, you know, number one is don’t bring drama to the workplace. Number two, bring solutions.

Number three, welcome stress. Because a lot of times people say, oh my gosh, I’m so stressed out. But actually, stress I think, refines us. It challenges us. And some, you know, some people work well under stress. I’m not one of those people, but I do recognize that stress can be exciting and it can be energizing, and it can help you, you know, force you to think clearly. So I said, okay, welcome stress. And then the final point was, ask for what you need. If you need resources, if you need something to do your job, well ask for it. You know, people want you to succeed. You have to speak up and ask for what you need, but you can’t be dramatic. You know, you can’t bring drama to the workplace. So I would say my advice would be as you go into the workplace, or even as you continue in your current job, just keep that top of mind that your job is to make your boss’s job easier. And I think anybody who does that will be an asset in their city and their organization and will be appreciated.

Ron (31:57):
That’s great advice. Very good. Ryan, did you have another one come to mind?

Ryan (32:03):
I was actually thinking, this is what Casey just shared, is something that my, my mission president told me to bring solutions instead of problems when you talk to your boss, right? ’cause it’s so easy for people to point out problems. And problems are usually immediately obvious, you know, things are breaking down. And and the boss probably knows the problem before you do anyways. And so you pointed it out to them is often not very helpful unless you’ve thought about solutions. You know? So at least think about solutions or a deeper understanding of problem. You know, ask questions like what could be causing the problem? What are the mechanics of the issue? Sort of dissect it rather than just saying, Hey, that’s an issue. Somebody should do something about that. Right? So I agree with that. I think that’s great advice.

Casey (32:52):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s probably an issue every city manager faces is everybody comes to the city manager and brings their problems, right? But what the city manager’s looking for is someone to offer solutions and Right. And then go run with it, right? Go take those solutions. And I think,

Ron (33:13):
So if they don’t have to worry about what you’re doing, you know, right. ’cause they know you’ve got their back.

Casey (33:20):
Well, and actually, you know, that’s a lot of what, you know, what you do, Ron, is you I think help cities understand problems that exist and understand potential solutions because you help, you know, you focus, you have these focus areas in your surveys, and so you help cities do that and make, again, make the bosses lives a lot easier. So,

Ron (33:46):
Very cool. Yeah. Well, thank you for that compliment.

Casey (33:48):
Yeah, of course. Yes.

Ron (33:50):
Well, hey, any final words? Ryan, do you have any final thoughts?

Ryan (33:56):
No, I’ve just loved the discussion. I’ve loved hearing about Casey’s experience. I’ve learned a lot. Yeah.

Ron (34:03):
Yeah. Casey, any final thoughts?

Casey (34:05):
Thanks. Well, thanks for letting me drone on with some silly stories, <laugh>, but I’m glad I’m, I’m really honored to be part of your podcast and you know I think OnPointe is great, and I’m excited now that you have OnPointe podcast. And yeah. And you know, for me as assistant City manager, I I always wanna network with other city managers and assistant city managers. So for anybody who’s listening to this, you know, definitely keep city of Marco Island in mind and, and let’s connect.

Ron (34:41):
Well said. And you’ll love it if you do. Great. And that’s it. I don’t have anything more here, so let’s call it a close.

Ryan (34:50):
Yeah. Thanks, Casey. Thanks.