Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance reivew? 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.
Matt Huffaker, City of Walnut Creek, CA, Shawn Ahmadi, Socrata, Katie Babits, Veneta, OR, and Ryan Mannion, SeeClickFix have given their evaluation of local government. Now we turn to the Mitten State where ELGL has launched an advisory board and is planning in-person events. Andrew Opalewski, Troy, MI Marketing Coordinator, gets the microphone first to review how local government is performing in Michigan.
Marketing Coordinator at City of Troy & Troy Public Library
Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?
The best part about working in local government is the broad scope of projects you become involved in– there’s something new almost every day. The most frustrating part is the creative restriction placed upon you by entrenched practices/old thinking/etc… Also dealing with the public is often a roller coaster ride.
80’s was……. Duck Hunt
90’s was…… Dunkaroos
00’s was….. AOL Instant Messenger
Last year was….. World Cup
Today is…. Bagels in the conference room
Your hometown? What is it best known for?
Freeland, Michigan. Being close to Saginaw? I dunno. They held German POWs there during WWII (thanks, Wikipedia)
Which bands would play at your retirement party?
If McCartney can’t make it, the Avett Brothers or Lord Huron.
Best holiday gift that you’ve received?
1995 – Monorail Transport Base LEGO set. Blew my 8-year-old mind.
I wrote my parents a letter when I graduated college thanking them for making me do a lot of things on my own, even when everyone around me had it handed to them. I begrudged them for it during school, but it hit me that I was very lucky to have parents who would do that (and not cave to my incessant complaining). They tell me that’s the best gift they’ve ever gotten from me, so I’ll go with that.
Describe the current state of local government.
The phrase that immediately comes to mind is ‘tipping point’. Professionals who aren’t so trapped in the old way of doing things are beginning to become decision makers. It’s an opportunity for local government to shed the negative connotation it has carried for the past 30 or 40 years and I hope people/organizations are courageous enough to try new and exciting things.That being said, there is also a balance we have to be aware of – communities age differently. My hope is that the youth movement brings more adaptability to local government.
- Recognizing that there is a shift in what is expected from them
- Hiring young people
- Creating efficiencies
Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.
- Allocating proper resources to communication efforts
- Producing effective/representative leaders
Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.
That’s difficult to answer. A lot of people inside organizations have embraced it, but have organizations as a whole? I’m not so sure they have, beyond the very forward thinking, agile communities. As people with new ideas gain more responsibility, we’ll see technology use advance.
Absolutely. Many places learned to accomplish more with less. That experience alone is worth it. Also, it forced many to take an honest look at legacy costs.
Evaluate whether local government is prepared for the ongoing wave of retirements.
I’m not sure it is, particularly in more niche fields, like Assessing. There will be a noticeable gap, at some point, due to the poor training of the next generation.
Wave a magic wand – what three wishes would you grant local government? No defined benefit pension obligations, all of their websites are usable/updated regularly/correctly, and the obliteration of Microsoft Office product reliance.
Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.
Michigan is headed in the right direction financially, but remains a very polarized state. The governor snuck a “Right to Work” bill through last year and certain people are (understandably) upset by that. Personally, I think state and federal government is out of touch with reality. It’s too unreachable for a common person to actually get involved in and make a difference, due to the sheer amount of money it takes.
The country is too polarized and the federal government can’t do anything about it. Regardless of which way the White House leans in a given term, the other side will have unprecedented and immediate ways to communicate a counter message. I’m getting a little off topic here, but I think the two-party system hurts the country in more ways than people realize. It’s become more about not helping the other side than about helping the people in this country.
Some of the challenges they face are the same at the local level, but with far less news coverage. It gives individuals an opportunity to seek out their own information and not rely on Fox News vs. MSNBC. I think that can be an advantage for local government, if they choose to communicate effectively.
What question(s) should we have asked?
I’ve always believed that you get good feedback from individuals when you ask them about what they aspire to for the topic. Local government has the opportunity to redefine its image. I think you’d get a lot of cool and unexpected ideas if you asked something in that way.