April 1-7 was local government education week and all of us need to take the time to instill passion in our staffs and collaboration with our schools to give our students the opportunity to know who we are. For Chesterfield, that's trying to deploy many people, including myself, to get in front of every 8th grader; 5,000 in total. We are local. We are the frontlines of government. We are often the only in-person experience a citizen has with government. We are also the least known and taught component of our federalism system of government. Perhaps it's because we are not a SOL test question or that 24-7 news and social media doesn't report on us. Perhaps it's because as a trusted news reporter friend told me once "We don't cover you because no one wants to read about planes landing safely."
I try to be the first speaker for every new employee orientation. I've been fortunate to have done over 50 such orientations to over 1000 new employees. My goals are simple: 1) Thank them for starting a career with Chesterfield; 2) Illustrating how important it is for them to know how critical we need their technical skills, but also their service to create an environment of trust; and 3) What is local government.
It's this third point that applies to new employees and to 8th graders. It's reminding them what they already may know, but not realize what's truly local and it doesn't matter who is in DC or the State Capitol, we are coming to you to serve. A 911 call - local. Water and sewer services - local. A visit to the library or parks - local. A child learning 3+2=5 in first grade - local. A new business positioned in community with quality of life traits to succeed - local. A neighborhood designed to create memories and friendships forever - local. The positioning of faith-based places, doctor offices, grocery stores and other essentials of life - local. A call to the suicide prevention hotline - local. Applying for benefits during tough employment times - local. And on and on and on.
When I finish such presentation, I usually get the same question - whether it's a 14-year-old 8th grader or a 60-year-old new employee. "What does the Federal and State government do?" My first answer is usually flip and sarcastic - "I don't know, but why do you give it so much attention and worry so much about it." Then I follow with how important that all of us do whatever we can to engage with our community, make every iteration with us professional and service-minded, teach our young and old at every opportunity, and to give our citizens varied roles (strategy setting, community design, volunteering, transparency, accountability) so that they are empowered and have an ownership interest in our success.
It's a challenge. But in the end, everyone values a plane landing safely. Whether they read about or see it on 24-7 news is not our measure to our citizens. It's the value we bring to them and the valued feedback they express back to us.
Please join me in welcoming our newest VLGMA members
Austin Britt, Prince George Economic Development Intern/County Administration; Nicole Clark, Lunenburg, Deputy County Administrator; Emily Kilroy, Albemarle Director of Communications & Public Engagement; Jonathan Lynn, Surry County Administrator and Travis Preau, City of Richmond Firefighter.
First and foremost, I want to use some of this space to say a deep and sincere "Thank you" to all those who attended my over-the-top retirement events at the winter VLGMA conference as well as those who had intended to come but couldn't travel due to the nasty storm. I appreciate all the kind remarks and wishes. It was a humbling experience, and I hope to live up to those accolades by continuing to provide quality service to you and the profession for some time to come. Again, many thanks!
Now, to address "semi-retirement."
While my position with the Virginia Institute of Government will be filled in the coming months, there is an obvious need to bridge the time between my 'retirement' and the hiring of my replacement to ensure continuation of the services you rely on from this office. These include the inquiry service, quick-time research, and personal consultation. While I won't be sitting in an office at a computer for quite as many hours, there should be no interruption and with only a slight modification in the immediate response time you have become accustomed to. My work email- email@example.com- remains the same and continues to be the best way to reach me.
I also plan to continue to perform my current VLGMA duties, including administering member support, helping the executive board, sitting on committees, and, most importantly, making arrangements for the VLGMA/SEI receptions at ICMA conferences. :-)
So, as you can see, I'm not disappearing anytime soon. I'll continue to pester you with inquiries, be available to help with assorted "stuff," and provide support to our many great current and former Virginia professionals.
As you will also realize when you get to a certain age: You can't just walk away from public service.
WOODSTOCK - Shenandoah County leaders gave Mary T. Price a send-off Tuesday at her last meeting as county administrator before retiring April 1.
The Board of Supervisors thanked Price for her years of public service concluding as county administrator. Chairman Conrad Helsley presented a framed certificate lauding Price for her more than 40 years of service. He called the occasion a happy one for Price as she can now spend more time with her family.
A few items I was involved with during a recent week included the seasonal startup of our Community Garden due to the resignation of our volunteer coordinator, wrapping up negotiations with the first internet service provider (ISP) to offer service on the Town's municipal broadband system, coordinating internal and external parties to plan phase two of our broadband system, looking for ways to improve our tourism efforts, and my first time assisting the Town Manager with our annual budget process from a whole of government perspective instead of from a single department. The local government field attracts all sorts of backgrounds, but I personally have no experience managing a community garden (I can barely grow tomatoes and peppers), my only experience with tourism is being a tourist, and then there's broadband. I will never be done learning about broadband. This is not a complaint but one of the many reasons I love this career.
In an attempt to grapple with the responsibilities of my new role it has reinforced my need to utilize force multipliers to accomplish our Town's mission. For those unfamiliar with the term force multiplier the definition I was taught is any person, group, program or object that exponentially increases the volume or impact of an action, a simplistic example being a megaphone. I first learned the term during my federal government service in the context of working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and village leaders in partner nations in the process of delivering aid, spreading the good news about democracy and "changing hearts and minds." Due to language barriers, cultural sensitivities, skill set and other factors my team was not always the most appropriate deliverer of services. Without cultivating relationships with the NGOs and village leaders in order to use their skills, knowledge and access, my team would not have been able to safely operate, much less succeed in our mission to provide aid to impoverished areas and train our partners in a new democracy.
In this same manner I would not be successful in my current role if I attempted to operate in a silo without our force multipliers. Whether it's our digital media accounts that allow my organization to quickly share information with the community, a contractor that can provide the equipment and expertise for a specific task more efficiently than my team is able to, with the benefit of being able to focus my team on other tasks, the regional organization that is able to address regional issues and lighten the load for its members, or the use of a resident-led committee to provide new ideas to staff as well as be a mouthpiece to the community, I constantly use our force multipliers. You may need to find, create, or purchase your force multipliers but no matter how you do it, don't attempt to do it alone because it won't benefit you or your community. I've met some of the superhumans who work in our field, and I'm nowhere near their caliber, but all who I have spoken to speak of the force multipliers in their world even if by a different name. Last thought: always remember to thank those force multipliers with heartbeats. They serve alongside you daily and make your job possible. Tell them you appreciate their effort.
Kevin Bruny and Ted Voorhees, Conference Co-Chairs
Join us for the 2019 VLGMA Summer Conference June 19-21 at the Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel. This year's conference theme: Waves of Change: Oceans of Opportunities reflects an intent to equip local leaders with new knowledge, skills, and tools in addressing anticipated challenges that may be different from our past governance practices.
Government officials have a new set of tools to enhance communication and engagement strategies that offer heightened transparency in government operations. Our pre-conference workshop, "Governing with a New Set of Communication Tools" will be led by Ilsa Loeser, of Letterpress Communication supported by a panel of professionals from Arlington County, Goochland County, and the City of Colonial Heights highlighting appropriate and legal use of Social Media tools for marketing, community engagement and communicating with constituents.
Ron Brown, Partnership Specialist, US Census and Margaret Nimmo Holland, Exec. Director, Voices for Virginia's Children will update us on "What to Expect in the 2020 Census" and specific issues around counting young children.
"Technology, Trust, and the Democracy of our Elections" brings a private-sector, state and local message from Brian Engle, Chief Information Security Officer,Cyber Defenses, Inc., Christopher E Piper, State Elections Commissioner, Gary D. Scott General Registrar and Travis J. Potter, IT Manager, Fairfax County regarding efforts underway to ensure confidence in a foundational element of our democracy.
Leaders of the Association of Human Services Officials and Virginia League of Social Service Executives, Sarah Snead and Kimberly Irvine respectively, will offer a primer on options and board responsibilities to ensure that community needs are appropriately addressed through state funded services in "Social Services Administration - It's a Local Thing!"
Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Chris Peace have been invited to share "A Behind-the-Curtain look at making the Legislative Sausage!" where they will offer insight into their roles before, during, and after the General Assembly session and how to maximize the impact of local government lobbying efforts.
"Volunteer Fire & EMS: Proven Practices for Recruiting and Retaining" will highlight proven practices for the preparatory and implementation phases of Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers from Fire & EMS representatives of the Counties of Chesterfield Loudoun, and Powhatan.
Hollie S. Cammarasana, Director of Communications, VML Insurance will offer emerging professionals' strategies in establishing a plan and necessary skills to deliver key messages effectively and confidently in"Crisis Communication for the Emerging Professional".
And, you will want to be present for Friday morning's Closing Keynote offered by Nick Kittle, Best Selling Author & Government Performance and Innovation Coach in "Transformation and Sustainovation: Achieving Radical Change". Nick will explore the no-holds-barred truth about personal and professional change, why it is important and how we can energize ourselves and our organizations using Sustainovation.
In addition to these great learning opportunities, evening social events are planned at two new Virginia Beach venues. For those wanting to try a little indoor golf, a Topgolf® outing will be offered to 100 participants before closing out the evening with a reception at the newly renovated Cavalier Hotel.
Innovate Your Innovation Program: Why Your Innovation Program is Never Complete
Read and learn from this very interesting article by Greg Stopka, Strategy and Innovation Manager at the Park District of Oak Park, Illinois.
In 2015, the Park District of Oak Park started Launch Pad, a virtual platform to share and collaborate around new ideas in real-time. A cross-functional innovation team met monthly to award a portion of non-resident fees to launch new ideas. The program was initially very successful. We implemented a cistern, solar cell-phone chargers, among other ideas. We even won the Alliance's prestigious J. Robert Havlick Award for Innovation in Local Government.
The only problem with this award-winning program? It wasn't working.
Transforming Local Government Conference will be held in Reno, Nevada, April 9-13, 2019.
About the Alliance for Innovation: The Alliance for Innovation is inspiring innovation to advance communities. As the premier resource for emerging practices in local government, we are building cultures of innovation and connecting thought leaders in the profession. We are accessible and valuable to all levels of an organization. You can learn more about the Alliance at www.transformgov.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position Changes and Other Events
Steve Owen, city manager for Staunton since 2007, announced his retirement after 38 years in local government service, effective June 30th.
Eric Dahl, deputy administrator/finance director for Fluvanna County, has been appointed administrator there effective July5th.
Anthony Romanello, deputy manager for Henrico County since 2016, has been appointed Henrico County Development Authority executive director effective March 2nd.
Evan Vass, Shenandoah County assistant administrator since 2014, has been appointed administrator there effective April 1st.
Noah Simon, Lexington city manager since 2014, has been appointed assistant town manager for Westlake, Texas.
Frank Pleva, former administrator for Lancaster, Mathews, and King William counties, passed away.
Mel's Poetry Corner
Just breathe and allow
attention to focus on now.
Thought follows its path
for a meditative bath.
Inhale, exhale, the cycle repeats.
Movement synchronizes with its natural beat.
Our consciousness extends and relaxes with
the signals the breath gives.
Stress fades away
in a breathing foray.
Filling up to expand and then
reversing to return to emptiness again.
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Future Newsletter Articles
A goal of this e-newsletter is to keep you informed on activities relative to our profession. As with any membership-based organization, contributions by members are welcome and encouraged. Topics can range from a recent achievement in your locality to an upcoming event with networking potential to human interest stories about current or retired members. To contribute simply send your brief e-newsletter content (~5 sentences or less) via email to Molly Harlow.