How You Can Help Veterans Succeed in Local Government

In this two-part series, Darrin Tangeman, District Manager and Chief Administrative Officer for Pueblo West Metropolitan District,writes about the challenges facing veterans, and then, how veterans can find a home in local government. Darrin will be interviewed in an upcoming episode of GovLove.

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By Darrin Tangeman (Linkedin and Twitter)

We have identified the challenges facing veterans transitioning to a local government career. The next question is what we can do to increase their chances of success.

What can veterans do to increase their chances of success in local government?

  • Find an experienced senior mentor in local government that is also a veteran and ask him/her tough questions about the profession and where your starting point is in local government.
  • Build your network of city managers and local government leaders and attend as many professional development opportunities and conferences as you can. Be a team player and lend a helping hand to anyone that asks.
  • Never give up on your dream and understand that it may take 100 plus job applications before you get your first interview or job in local government.

How can military personnel be a vital pipeline for local governments with the ongoing wave of retirements in management?

I believe our military is one of the finest leadership schools and professional development organizations in the world.  There are few organizations in the world that provide the opportunity and immense responsibility for leaders at such a young age. The U.S. military is a place where 25 year old women and men are leading strategic initiatives with local governments in foreign countries, are responsible for managing hundreds of employees, and are managing multi-million dollar budgets. By the age of 35, these women and men are leading cross-functional organizations as large as 450 employees, coordinating operations across multiple countries, and stewarding multi-million dollar budgets and critical resources.

shrm-survey-findings-the-ongoing-impact-of-the-recessionstate-and-local-government-25-638These opportunities do not happen by accident. Instead, the military has a regimented professional development system that trains, educates, and shepherds leaders from one career opportunity to the next. One of my favorite military quotes is by Vice Admiral Rodney Rempt, who said, “We must both train for the known and educate for the unknown.” This quote is indicative of the modern military and the current movement to educate leaders to be critical and strategic thinkers, cross-culturally astute, civically engaged, and population-centric.

In my perspective, the military is a natural career progression to local government. I believe making veterans a vital pipeline for local government starts with the city manager and elected officials. Veterans watch the news, speak among their own social networks, and they know which communities in the United States have a reputation for being unfriendly to veterans. Local government leaders have to overtly advocate and communicate to veterans that they want them in their workforce. I would also recommend that human resource directors travel to their nearest military bases and recruit from military job fairs. Lastly, I would encourage local governments to develop transparent, clearly delineated, and a consistently implemented veteran preference system of recruitment.

Supplemental Reading