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 News for Kansas City, Kansas

Yesterday Google announced that Kansas City, Kansas, would be the first city to participate in the Google Fiber project. The Google Fiber project seeks to bring 1-gigabit internet access to every house.

Google will have to reach an agreement with the Unified Board of Commissioners, but when that is completed they will work to roll out access to 50,000 to 500,000 residents of Kansas City, Kansas, at a competitive price.

You can read about the news from the New York Times, Government Technology, and the press release from the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas (pdf file).

I couldn’t be happier for the residents of Kansas City, Kansas. I worked for a year at the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, and it is a place with great citizens and great workers. Kansas City was hit pretty hard by the end of the industrial boom, and the city has never really recovered. I think Google Fiber will give them a leg up on other cities in attracting new businesses and great residents. I am extremely proud that Mayor Joe Reardon and the staff at the Unified Government won this project for their citizens.

John’s Motto for City Management

Dr. John Nalbandian imparted these words on a soon-to-graduate class of future city managers:

Honor the past, capture the present, and shape the future.

That is how I hope to impact cities and counties during my career. Thank you, Professor Nalbandian.

Kansas MPA in New York Times

I couldn’t be prouder than to see my Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program, the University of Kansas, get a prominent mention recently in the New York Times:

Classes in local government were first offered at the University of Kansas in the late 1940s, when city management was becoming professionalized in reaction to corruption, says Marilu Goodyear, chairwoman of its department of public administration. Students today — including civil engineers, firefighters and police officers seeking to advance to leadership positions — are often interested in careers in city management or finance. Internships are part of most M.P.A. programs. Kansas’ are distinctive: students intern full time in city government their second year. With campuses near Fort Leavenworth, the university also attracts military personnel involved in nation building and reconciliation in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Maj. Robin W. Montgomery, aide to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, graduated last summer.)

Kansas tops the U.S. News & World Report rankings for city management and urban policy.

My friend and classmate Rob (Robin) got a huge mention!  Way to go, Rob!

Public administration is an incredible field, but it often gets confused.  You tell someone you work in government, and they assume you are a politician.  Public administration is typically about the professional government worker (nonpartisan during working hours and unbiased) implementing policies handed down from politicians.

I would recommend an MPA for anyone looking to start, or further, a career in professional government.  If you are starting out, I would recommend attending a program that has very good connections to internships.  Or, find a job in a government and later go back and get an MPA.  Either way, the important part of the degree is the application of real-life experience to MPA classes.

And with all this talk of MPA degrees, I have to brag about the one I just received!:

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!).

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.