Dad. Assistant City Manager. Surviving.

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My Local Government Motivation


If you work in local government management and ever need a motivational boost, these are the sources I look back to:

L.P. Cookingham on his management philosophy, originally published in ICMA’s Public Management magazine in 1956. Also see the ELGL’s post on the topic.

The Effective Local Government Manager from ICMA.

This City, This Man: The Cookingham Era in Kansas City by Bill Gilbert.

The Local Impact of Fiber

Susan Crawford has a great article on Medium about the benefits of fiber for cities.

This has become an even bigger topic since Google announced yesterday that they are expanding Google Fiber to even more cities across the United States.

I continue to believe that fiber is single best economic development project a municipality can fund. See here, here, here and here. But as fiber continues to roll out in more towns, the advantage won’t be there much longer.


The State of Local Government Websites

Kansas classmate Josh Rauch and I wrote an article for the August issue of Public Management magazine. Josh and I opined “Overlooking Your Website? If so, residents and businesses may be overlooking you” for the International City/County Management Association members publication.

Ask yourself: Is your community’s website just a line-item expense? Or is it something your organization is using to give back to and engage with your community? Does your current design support users who visit your site? Does it look good? Can visitors read it? Can they use it easily? Are they getting the messages about your community that you want to deliver?

We believe government websites don’t have to be ugly. It may not seem like a pressing issue in the whirlwind of other responsibilities and challenges, but a well-designed website can be a tremendous help to staff, community residents, and visitors. Be sure to pay attention to it!

I’m really glad Josh asked me to help write this article. The two of us often discuss the state of local government websites, especially those of small towns. Many of these cities, towns, counties, and districts outsource their IT, and their website is an afterthought. And it shouldn’t be.

Josh and I are pretty passionate about providing small municipalities with a better option for a website, so I hope you’ll go read the article. I hope you’ll be hearing more from us on this topic in the near future.

Great Article in Public Management

Great short story in Public Management, the magazine of the International City/County Management Association, by a village manager in Michigan. Read the whole article (if you can, it might be behind a paywall), but the part that strikes me:

The moral of the story is that most of our communities have faced tremendous challenges in recent years due to the economy. These changes have seen many hard choices made, often involving the reduction of staff and services. The needs of our communities, however, have not changed. In fact, they likely have grown.

I remind my staff that we are in the business of serving the public, and that we work for a company where everyone we interact with is an owner of that company. Everyone we deal with has value and is someone important who should command our full attention.

This is such an inspiration (it’s great to see I’m not alone in this mindset) and it is an honor to work in this field!

Retirement of Fairfax County Executive

The Washington Post has a great article on the retirement of Tony Griffin, Fairfax County’s county executive:

As Fairfax County’s county executive for more than a decade, Griffin has quietly managed one of Virginia’s most diverse and dynamic jurisdictions, a suburb of more than 1 million people that covers nearly 400 square miles. Only one person has held the post longer.

There is a reason I’ve gotten into government, and specifically city/county management. And Tony Griffin has lived a life of it. Go read the article, because this is what I want to do.

Edward Glaeser on The Daily Show

John Stewart interviewed Edward Glaeser on The Daily Show earlier this week.  It was in reference to Glaeser’s new book Triumph of the City, which has seen rave reviews.  It sounds academic, but as a student of local government, I can’t wait to read it!

Graduated from KU

This is a little bit late, but I wanted to write on here anyways (especially since I blogged my acceptance into the program and the first day of classes).  Also, I can write this now, as the official commencement at KU was yesterday.

I’ve finished the Edwin O. Stene Master’s Program in Public Administration (MPA degree) at the University of Kansas, and I recently was hooded.

Here are a couple of pictures from the graduation banquet:

Graduation Group

Graduation Hooding

I started this program 2 years ago, having never been to campus before I accepted and having never lived outside of the State of Georgia.  I applied on the recommendation of a mentor and professor at the University of Georgia, and I was accepted to the program (just barely).

I’ve moved to Kansas, been to Richmond and Montreal for ICMA conferences, made many new friends (who I already miss), worked in new places (the Unified Government and Jefferson County), found a job in and moved to Colorado, and become engaged (and getting married in a month).  These have been a grueling, but refreshing, two years for this fresh-out-of-undergrad guy from Georgia.  And I can’t believe it is already over (but really, the journey has just begun).

It still seems like just yesterday when I was sitting in that classroom in Blake Hall, listening to Professor John Nalbandian (pictured above, hooding me) as the tornado sirens went off outside on that first day.  Wow.

Other updates will be forthcoming (I have a job!).

ICMA Starts to Blog

I’ve been meaning to link to these articles for a while.  The International City/County Management Association (of which I am a member) has received some recent press on the Huffington Post.  While the Huffington Post admittedly leans to one side of the political spectrum, it is exciting to see a wider viewership (and online, to boot) for the ideals of the city management profession.

The articles are written by Ron Carlee, the former county manager for Arlington County, Virginia, and the Executive in Residence and Director for Domestic Strategic Initiatives for ICMA.  Ron’s first post on the Huffington Post explains what a city manager or county administrator is, why the council-manager form of local government came about, and about the profession in general.  Overall, it is an excellent introduction to the profession for anyone to read (especially family members who might not be able to explain what we do).

Ron’s second article responds to some criticism of his first article (it was really only two people who did the criticizing).

In the most recent post, Ron responds to questions about the ethics of writing on a liberal leaning website.  Ethics, and following the ICMA Code of Ethics, is the strongest tenet of ICMA membership, and I can see from the post that Ron and the ICMA are not taking this question lightly:

The Tenet and the Guidelines do not prohibit expression of opinions on issues, political ideas, or the association with people with political ideas. This I confirmed with the ICMA director of ethics. Publishing a non-partisan blog on this site it not a violation of Code of Ethics; however, not being a violation of the Code doesn’t make something a good idea.

I’m proud to see that ICMA has started a blog in a widely read website.

Aspects of the Manager’s Job

From John Nalbandian, 1999 Public Administration Review, “Facilitating Community, Enabling Democracy: New Roles for Local Government Managers”:

Many aspects of the [city or county] manager’s job remain the same: keeping the council informed, providing continuity and stability, telling the council what it does not necessarily want to hear, and balancing short-run interests against a long-run, “greater good” perspective. The difference between now and ten years ago is in the emphasis on the facilitative role of the manager.

This is my chosen and learned profession, and I’m excited.

KU Alum is City Manager for New City in India

A post on LinkedIn from a friend directed me to a news article about a new “hill station” (or city) in India that is being built from scratch.  There are several quotes from Lavasa’s city manager, Scot Wrighton.  Scot is a University of Kansas MPA program alum (a KUCIMAT) who previously worked at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute.  As one of the KUCIMATs in Georgia, Scot interviewed me during my application process for the University of Kansas.  The Carl Vinson Institute has a small piece about one of Scot’s visits to India earlier this year.  Way to go, Scot!

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