First of all, I should say I consider myself very fortunate that my local government fellowship took place at the Innovation Office of Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) City Hall, under the supervision of Mayor Sly James. While there are plenty of great cities and departments where you can begin your local government career, an Innovation Office in a forward-thinking, growing, and exciting town like Kansas City, Missouri, is an exceptionally great place to begin.
Generally, a large part of my fellowship entailed introductions to unfamiliar departments, doctrine, and processes. Over the span of four months, I’ve gained a wealth of information about city government organization, administration, operations, and potential impacts on a local community. I’ve delved deeper into data management and Integration, thanks to Dave Evans, chief information officer, from a civilian and civic perspective, and have a newfound respect for IT departments everywhere. During my time working in the Innovation Office, I was able to visit with members of the mayor’s staff, learn their responsibilities, and observe their efforts. I received a good hands-on and practical introduction to the workings of a city hall, at least for a larger metropolitan area such as Greater Kansas City. I discovered the impacts of budgets on basic services, learned the importance and challenges of implementing new transportation and water initiatives, and saw firsthand the machinations of politics during election time, which, we all know, can be very interesting! I also gained invaluable insight into Kansas City’s efforts and multiple successes with Smart City Initiatives, which literally lead the nation. I also gained insight into Smart City efforts of other cities in the United States and worldwide, thanks to the mentorship and subject matter expertise of the city’s chief innovation officer, Bob Bennett.
My specific responsibilities entailed working essentially project management processes on several data initiatives within the Innovation Office, for both KCMO CIOs, including the Greater KC Region MetroLab Initiative, Integrated Data Initiative, and Model Data Handling for Municipalities. “Big Data” integration, modeling, data rights, and privacy within the confines of a civic organization are each articles unto themselves and offer a career for those eager to pursue the topics. As a part of my duties, I was also able to spend a little bit of time on emergency management and continuity of operations planning.
Beyond working under the great mentorship of Bob Bennett, I’ve had the good fortune to work for KCMO Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte, two leaders who put 100% of their hearts and souls into improving the lives of Kansas Citians. They clearly exemplify what it means to be a public servant. Additionally, the mayor’s and city manager’s staffs treated me very well, offered insight into the real workings of city hall, and if I had more room, I would personally thank each of them in this article for their professionalism and helpfulness in introducing me to the world of local government.
In addition to my daily work, I was able to attend Smart City conferences, ELGL, and ICMA educational opportunities and professional networking sessions. ICMA membership is priceless, and I thank the fellowship for setting it up. I was also invited to attend local university classes (thank you UMKC Professor Tony Luppino), for free, on topics related to law and in public policy in the initiatives with which I was involved. These opportunities proved most beneficial to my understanding of city issues and the ways in which local communities are dealing with them.
During my 22 years in the Army, I can say I’ve had some truly memorable and life-changing experiences. This VLGMF opportunity is certainly in my top five! I’d like to thank Darrin Tangeman and Scott Robinson for making this opportunity such a productive and worthwhile experience, and my chain of command at MCTP, specifically COL Chris Keller and COL Guy Jones, for encouraging me to participate. I hope to be able to facilitate another opportunity for another transitioning soldier at some point soon. As a result of this fellowship, I have been offered an opportunity to continue working in KCMO City Hall as chief innovation officer. I look forward to this outstanding opportunity and hope to continue to serve citizens throughout the local community as long as possible.