100 Years and Counting….Takeaways from Charlotte

Kirsten Silveira, City of Baltimore budget analyst and Kansas MPA student, recaps the ICMA Conference with the help from a few friends.  

100 Years and Counting……Takeaways from the ICMA Conference

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by: Kirsten Silveira – LinkedIn and Twitter

September 22, 2014

A week ago local government professionals from across the country gathered for the 100th Annual International City & County Managers Association (ICMA) conference in Charlotte, NC. The Queen’s City treated us well and we all arrived back to our respective organizations mentally recharged (and physically exhausted).

imagesThis was my second ICMA conference. The University of Kansas MPA program sends first year and second year students to the ICMA conference to network, gain knowledge and become even more a part of the extensive, sometimes eccentric, KUCIMAT family.

The first year students attend the conference, interview current city managers to gain further understanding of the profession and spend time bonding with the class above them. Second year students are in full time internships, fellowships or jobs all over the US – so ICMA is the first time since May that we get to we see our cohort. Second year KUCIMATs attend the conference, have professional development seminars with Dr. John Nalbandian (a.k.a the Godfather) and reflect on how we have experience our education connecting to practice. We got to chat privately with some amazing professionals: Karen Thomas, Chief Executive of New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers; Darin Atteberry, City Manager of Fort Collins, Colorado; Julie Underwood, Assistant City Manager of Daly, CA; Reggie Robinson, Director of the KU School of Public Affairs and Administration.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was the opportunity to connect, reconnect and recharge. I felt inspired by the incredible keynotes, empowered by some of the conversations I had with fellow public administrators and excited for what lies ahead.

I caught up with some fellow ELGLers who attended the conference to hear what they took away from ICMA Charlotte.

Word on the Street

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Heather Geyer, Administrative Services Director at the City of Wheat Ridge, Colorado

When I walked into the ELGL event it became clear that, while we hear there is a decrease in the number of MPA graduates seeking out careers in local government, ELGL has captured the attention of our emerging professionals and seasoned professionals alike!  The event was an awesome opportunity to network and meet professionals from across the nation.  One thing we all have in common…after a long day (yes those happen at conferences too!) there is nothing better than a good beer! 

Mitch Foster, Village Manager of Kingsley, Michigan

As a manager in a small town (smaller than almost all), the sessions at this year’s conference, as well as the relevant discussions at several of the social events, allowed me to gain great insight from others in similar positions. I believe ICMA does a great job at helping managers at all levels of government engage with one another more in order to create more peer-to-peer learning at the Conference and less lecturing.

Pete Olson, Town Manager of Yorktown, Indiana10628125_678264912259074_9057512972015354677_n

The ICMA conference always educates, informs and energizes me, but year after year it enforces that relationships are the key to communities success. 

Relationships like…  A manager with his/her community to utilize the available tools and data to make the community better. A relationship with the staff to think and act differently, to try new things and accept both success and not quite success yet. A relationship with other managers, deputy managers and department heads to learn and commiserate with each other as needed. 

Dan Weinheimer, Deputy City Manager of Fort Collins, Colorado

In reflecting on the conference, it was the expected – a fantastic opportunity to learn and develop a deeper professional connections. But what struck me was really more the opportunities that we have as managers to foster the unexpected within communities. We can have such a profound influence through openness to new voices and ideas, we can bring innovation to a community by filtering what might be a leading practice but taking a local spin and building on it, and that we should not accept a “best practice” as the end of the conversation.

Jason Escareno, Management Fellow at San Mateo County, California10609649_678450582240507_2176091196373582514_n

Several city managers I spoke with emphasized how “young” the conference was as a whole – a noticeable changing of the guard. Nothing exemplified this more than a 24-year-old City/Village Manager that I met in Charlotte. He is in charge of two municipalities operating under a shared services agreement and administers at both. The future looks bright. 

Sarah Hazel, Management Fellow at City of Charlotte, North Carolina

I was excited and reinvigorated by conference attendees’ willingness to spend time talking to me about and the interesting work they are doing in their communities. In particular, one manager went out of his way to follow up with me after a session. He provided great examples of how he approaches stimulating innovation without having to spend serious dollars and an illustration of how his team set a high goal to benefit the community and then rallied an entire organization around meeting it. This particular manager asked me about what I wanted to achieve and listened – really listened- in a way that was sincere, encouraging, and heartfelt.  The opportunities to make genuine connections like that meant the most to me. It reinforced that I can meet a professional “soul-mate”  anywhere – someone I can reach out to and seek guidance from in the future. Mentors don’t only have to be down the hall. I realize I have to be open to those connections and learning at all times!

Dave Waffle, Assistant Director of Finance at  Beaverton, Oregon

As I’m one of the veteran mentors, even I was surprised when most of my conversations early in the conference were about “how many years” these managers had until retirement.  I guess that means we need to do an even better job of preparing, coaching and offering jobs to young managers. Thank goodness for programs like ELGL to help that process.

Tamara Schaps, Director of Career Services at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs

BxiHs5kIcAAs9ouThe conference was a fantastic experience. As the Director of Career Services at the Evans School of Public Affairs, I attended the conference for multiple reasons: networking with city managers who can hire students and alumni, sharing our academic training programs with individuals who are considering further education, and gathering innovative ideas for next year’s conference happening in our backyard– Seattle, WA! I felt welcome at the ICMA Conference from the beginning and it was a joy to meet and greet city administrators from across the world and share the Evans School with them. I hope to reconnect with many of these same individuals next fall as we welcome everyone to Seattle, WA!

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