Update: Josh is running for Mayor of Appleton. Give him a follow on Twitter.
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance review? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.
The Chamber of Commerce is a major player in the local government arena. The Chamber is the voice of the business community and helps build relationships between government and business. The degree to which this happens varies by community. Josh Dukelow (LinkedIn and Twitter), Vice President of Public Policy and Leadership at the Fox Cities (WI) Chamber of Commerce, reflects on his experience in working with local government.
Your hometown? What is it best known for?
Slinger, WI which I often describe as “a bustling metropolis of 5,000 people.” Famous for two things: Little Switzerland Ski Area and the Slinger Super Speedway (world’s fastest quarter-mile oval!).
(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the….
- 80’s was……. The fall of the Iron Curtain
- 90’s was…… The birth of the World Wide Web
- 00’s was….. The evolution of wireless technology
- Last year was….. Achieving long-time professional ambitions
- Today is…. Mapping the route to my next career milestone
Which bands would play at your retirement party?
I wish I could have Frank Sinatra duet with Ella Fitzgerald, but among living bands I would request PHOX.
Best holiday gift that you’ve received? Given?
Best gift I’ve received recently was a Kindle, putting books and movies in the palm of my hand. The best gift I gave was a session with an estate planner to my parents; it helped put all of our minds at ease.
Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?
Local government issues are the ones that touch our lives every day in a million ways. Working on local issues gives you the chance to improve people’s lives in simple but meaningful ways. The slow pace of change and the resistance to new solutions are often annoying, but the apathy of average citizens is most frustrating.
Describe the current state of local government.
Local government has been pushed to find innovative solutions to complex problems. Like so many private-sector companies, they are having to find ways to do more with less as expectations rise among their customer-base. On top of that challenge, local government is facing a slow-motion crisis as long-time employees approach retirement, with very few new professionals pursuing careers in local government. The need for innovation should be a draw for creative professionals to enter the ranks of local government, but government’s reputation for dysfunction and inertia repels the people we need.
Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.
Local government is:
- leading the charge in adapting to changing lifestyles by embracing things like bike lanes, ride-sharing, etc.
- on the cutting edge in forging collaborative agreements to tackle common problems, and
- quick to see the need to invest in strategic economic development efforts to sustain growth and attract employers.
Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.
Local government should:
- leverage the power of the data they collect by opening it up for public use and analysis,
- realize they need to be more transparent and communicative and can do that through social media, and
- develop more flexible work environments to attract young professionals.
The embrace of new technology depends on the level and the leader. A strong CIO or IT Director will understand the need for his team to share data and respond to evolving technology, but if they face a Mayor or Council that is skeptical of such moves there is little they can do. In my experience, the embrace likely comes after technology is shown to have saved money for the community.
For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?
Very little good came from the Great Recession, but it was a moment for local government to evaluate their dependence on state and federal funds for essential functions. Additionally, those communities that relied on one or two industries for their economic vitality got a wake-up call about the need to diversify their employment base to support a sustainable economy in the long-run.
Evaluate whether local government is prepared for the ongoing wave of retirements.
In a word: no. I haven’t seen much done by local leaders to recruit young professionals into local government service, nor have I seen many accommodations offered that would attract those people to consider local government employment. The stability and predictability of local government jobs used to be seen as a key advantage, but for Millennials constantly on the hunt for the “next big thing” that is boring. There is a lot of work to be done on this.
Wave a magic wand – 3 wishes would you grant local government.
- Irrational public skepticism of public investment would disappear.
- Public attention would be paid to local government issues.
- Alternative revenue sources would be discovered to reduce reliance on property taxes.
Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.
In Wisconsin, one-party control of state government has brought a degree of productivity and responsiveness to the Legislature. The focus on making Wisconsin more attractive to business is producing results. Workforce development, tax reform, regulatory relief, and other objectives are helping to boost job creation and bolster revenues. The divided nature of the federal government has had the opposite effect at that level. Very little getting done, problems left to fester, etc. When the GOP takes control of the Senate this could change, but that’s unlikely with a Democrat in the White House.
What question(s) should we have asked?
How do we get more young people involved in local government? My answer: ask! People (but especially Millennials) are eager to get involved and help solve problems if they know what they can do and the difference they can make. Asking people, “Would you ever consider serving on the Historic Preservation Committee?” or “Have you ever thought about running for school board?” can be the jumping off point to larger conversations, and might be the nudge someone needs to get involved.
- Fox Cities Chamber names leadership vice president
- Column: Campaign ads show worsening problem
- Column: 19th District Senate race could be crucial
- Column: We’ve lost connection between taxes, services
- Generosity: from the Perspective of a Leadership Fox Cities
360 Review – Archives
- Ashleigh Weeden, SWEA
- Lee Jay Feldman, Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission
- Carlos Moreno, Code for Tulsa
- Andrew Opalewski, City of Troy, MI
- Shawn Ahmadi, Socrata
- Ryan Mannion, SeeClickFix
- Matt Huffaker, City of Walnut Creek, CA
- Katie Babits, City of Veneta, OR
- Chad Doran, City of Appleton, WI