The Midwest and Me: Tip of the Cheese Curd

The Midwest and Me: Tip of the Cheese Curd

ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt is live-blogging his trip to the Illinois City County Management Association/Wisconsin City Management Association joint conference in Fontana, WI.


June 24

Tip of the Cheese Curd 

The WI/IL conference was a first class affair with more than 550 attendees. Conference organizers were easy to work with and open to ideas for creating engaging sessions. I am going to attempt to thank the conference organizers that we worked with, but much like at the Academy Awards, I undoubtedly will forget a few names.

  • Dawn Peters
  • Denise Burchard
  • Cory Poris Plasch
  • Mike Baker
  • Jack Knight
  • Kelly Amidei
  • Inga Cushman

Randy Recklaus, who was an early ELGL supporter, was an ideal panelist and storyteller. He’s the first person that I’ve heard explain why the “assistant to” job title exists in local government. Lauren Stott was intelligent, composed and realized that time and patience is required to make the jump from management analyst to senior management analyst. Chad Doran should be involved in every local government conference. He’s transformed communication in Appleton through live-tweeting ride-alongs, Appyacademy, and strong media relations. Ben McCready is the original Midwest ELGL member and the perfect match maker in organizing conference sessions. Congrats to Ben on buying a new house while juggling two conference sessions. I’ll buy you a new iPhone charge anytime you need it.

Here’s a link to photos from the week and the Twitter activity from the conference.

My love for the Abbey Resort continues. You’ll learn why in an upcoming GovLove podcast. My only complaints – slow WiFi and no ESPN. I wouldn’t normally notice the lack of ESPN but my plans to chill-lax and watch the NBA draft were shattered when I noticed ESPN was not included in the TV package but the Big Ten network was.


New Members from IL and WI

We’re excited to see an uptick of IL and WI professionals joining ELGL this week.

Engaging Local Government Leaders is open to everyone. We’re a big-tent organization which reaches all functions of local government. We’ve had professors, students, attorneys, interns, and tech companies join in the last several weeks. We hope you’ll consider joining the movement – $0.00 for students, $30 for individuals, $230 for organizations.


#FunFact Alert


Two of the three people in this picture are die hard Pardon My Take listeners. The other person in the picture served on the Rockford, MI city council at age 19, wrote a book about Baltimore (no, it isn’t about The Wire), and is the first doctor to appear on GovLove. (Although I am still waiting advice on my knee issue.)



Michael Karlik owes me a royalty check. I spread the word about City Council Chronicles to anyone who would listen. The site is a beautiful example of making government even council meetings interesting. Allow me to quote from the most recent review of the Lincoln, NE council meeting:


Sometimes Nebraska lives up to its reputation as “the interesting man’s Kansas.”

But sadly, this week the Cornhuskers on the Lincoln city council were focused 100 percent on the soul-crushing, time-dragging nuts and bolts of the People’s Business.

“Can you please tell us about your application?” Vice Chair Leirion Gaylor Baird smiled at the nervous Middle Eastern man wanting a liquor license.

“I just applied…for selling beer for my restaurants. I’m trying to sell only beer.”


“So…this is an existing business?” Councilman Carl Eskridge probed.

“Yes. I’m trying to sell just beer.”


H/T #6…

Goes to the Milwaukee airport for their “Recombobulation” area. It’s a polite way of asking people to move along and put on their belt and shoes instead of passing through the metal detector and stopping as if you’re rubber necking a car accident.


Part two of the hat tip is for their breast pumping station that looks like one of those old school racing games that you would hop into at an arcade. For obvious reasons, I was unable to photograph it.


Finders Keepers

Want to see the look of someone who left their new ELGL swag on the dinner table. Meet Zach Navin.




Boat Drinks

Since the creation of professional conferences in 1843 (you might want to fact check that date since I completely guessed), conference presenters have avoided being slotted in the first group of sessions after lunch. It’s a tough sleepy crowd to entertain and half of the attendees are on the golf course or enjoying a long afternoon nap.

Today was a first for me – our session on the last 60 days at a job was the first morning session and followed a late night boat cruise on Lake Geneva. I did not partake in the boat cruise. (I learned my lesson at #ELGL15 when I enjoyed a little too much the pre-conference Pedal-lounge.) Instead, I hunkered down last night with my iPad and episodes of the League.

As the room slowly filled up this morning, we made a last minute audible to open the session with ELGL’s favorite video.

I think this provided a little morning caffeine but the real energy boast was provided by the panelists: Anne Marie Gaura, Kate Andris, Lori Luther, and Mitch Foster. Panelists spoke from the heart and share their experiences which paved the way for an informative dialogue with the audience. For the final question, each panelist talked about their proudest accomplishment. Lori Luther shared an incredible experience from the beginning of her time in Beloit, WI.


I am not going to recount Lori’s experience (that’s what they call a tease in journalist) but I will include a couple of links that provide context for transformational leadership in Beloit. Baptism by fire for Beloit city manager and Consultant’s report details deficiencies at Beloit Police Department.


Coke vs. Pepsi

Has GovLove found a new rival? Not quite, what we’ve found is a local government who is using podcasts to communicate internally. We interviewed Jim Hurley, McHenry County, IL this morning to get the 4-1-1. We’ll post the episode in the coming weeks. We encourage you (after  you listen and re-listen to every GovLove episode) to take a look at how McHenry County is beginning to use podcasting to communicate


Wakey, wakey…

We’re back at it again. We’re up early to interview Dr. Eric Zeemering for an upcoming episode of GovLove. And yes, I think this is the first doctor that we’ve had on the show. I will be asking him about some unbearable leg pain that I’ve been experiencing lately.

Later in the morning, Jim Hurley, Assistant to the County Administrator at McHenry County, will be in the hot seat to discuss the county’s new podcast. We’ll share a few tips with him but not too many as we don’t want to get past on the iTunes charts.

One of these days Jamie Ludovic will agree to appear on the podcast instead of hanging out on a boat.

In between the interviews, ELGL is leading a session on the “Last 60 Days” of a job. The idea was spurred by an article written by Julie Underwood a few years ago.


H/T #5

Ben McCready, Chad Doran, Randy Recklaus (Happy Birthday), and Lauren Stott for educating me about squeaky cheese curds, butter burgers, shotskis, and Supper Clubs. In all honesty, our social media session was one of the best panels that I’ve been a part of. Lots of audience interact, a few giggles, and lots of knowledge bombs.

If I’ve left you wondering about squeaky cheese curds, I did it on purpose. You’ll need to travel to Wisconsin for learn the story (or Google it).


5 Hours in Milwaukee

I have a few hours to waste in Milwaukee before departing for the Pacific Northwest. What should I do with myself? Please, no replies about food that immediately causes a heart attack.


Photos, photos everywhere


Check out the photos from the conference. I’ll crop out the cheeseheads and my wild hair later. The humidity in Wisconsin has resulted in a number of bad hair days. What’s a boy to do?

June 23

H/T #4

Gail Sumi, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, gets props for dot connecting. Last night, I met Mark Rohloff, City of Oshkosh, WI. Who cares? You should! Mark is Jason Rohloff’s dad. Jason was a summer intern for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. Read about it here – The Blogtern with Jason Rohloff, League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

You can meet Mark via this 60 second video. Link:


Fired Up and Ready to Go

Chad Doran is ready to rock this afternoon’s social media session. He’s bringing his game face.


Note: he remembered to put out his recycling bin.


H/T #3

Jamie Ludovic is a must follow on Twitter. She is rocking it on Twitter during the opening speech.


Podcasting…Right At You

Throughout the day, we’ll be interviewing The Abbey about their use of social media, Josh Schoemann, Heidi Voorhees, and other surprise guests.


Rodgers in the House

Aaron Rodgers kicking off the 2016 conference. I’ll ask him about the 2015 NFC Championship Game. (Spoiler Alert: Seahawks won.)



“Permission to Engage”

We’re kicking off the morning with Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour. We would Periscope the talk but The Abbey’s internet connection is too slow. (Why, Abbey, why?).

“How do we overcome together” is the focus of her talk. She’s talking about overcoming stereotypes to advance diversity and inclusion efforts. Sad fact: There is little racial diversity at the conference.



Owner of the Packers

Last night, I had drinks with a couple of Packers’ owners/shareholders. This is not a humble brag because I found out that if you’re willing to pay $225, you could also become a Packers owner. The perks of being a Packers owner……(crickets) (crickets) (crickets). There are no perks to being a Packers owner unless you count a half sheet of paper with your name on it and the Packers logo. Packers owners don’t have priority for tickets, they have no vote, they don’t even receive a free t-shirt.


Learning about the “perks” of Packers ownership gave me an idea. ELGL will start selling “ownership” for $225. The perks – a free pin and sticker. But, you’ll have no access to any of the normal member benefits.


Picture Show

Here’s a link to pictures from the conference. We’ll update throughout the day.


June 22

Normal vs. Portland

I beat Ben McCready to The Abbey Resort. How? I have no idea. I traveled the whole day from Portland, OR; Ben traveled from Normal, IL. As of 4:54 p.m., Ben has not arrived. Should he not arrive by 6:00 p.m. I will be putting his half of the room on AirBnb.

IMG_8375Ben is missing out. The Abbey Resort is quite the place. ELGL folks will be meeting up at the Waterfront Bar at 5:15 p.m. if you are interested.


Things I Forgot to Pack

Let me know if you are at the conference and don’t mind that I borrow one of all of these items: tennis shoes, razor, shaving cream, and a toothbrush.



One-stop shopping – I knocked out the selfie at the Village Hall and Library, and for extra points, I dropped in a shot at the Chamber of Commerce. If you are wondering if it look creepy while I took these pictures, the answer is “yes.”

H/T #2 of the trip goes to the Fontana Police for not arresting me while I broke out by my selfie game.

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Gas stations, such as Mobile, do not sell beer. Is this true?


A Real #FunFact

Check out the knowledge that Mike Ekey dropped in today’s Buzz.



12th Man

For the huge contingent of Seahawks fans at the conference, here’s a warning – the NIU program has drenched their table with Chicago Bears items. I fully expect that Mike Ditka will be working their table tomorrow.


Fontana Montana

So, I had to get the “Fontana Montana” reference out of my mind. I realize it doesn’t make sense even though The Abbey Resort is located in Fontana, WI.

We’re in the air to Milwaukee, WI — home of Harley Davidson and sausage races. My Tigard co-workers have requested that I bring back cheese and postcards. I think I can handle the postcard request but I am little less comfortable around cheese. Recommendations?

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Before today, I thought sitting next to kids on a flight was the worst possible situation. Not anymore. From PDX to Minneapolis, I sat a row behind a couple who were locking lips like Al and Tipper Gore at the Democratic National Convention.


Live! Live! Live!

Local government is spontaneous (cough, cough) so ELGL must keep up. We’ll demonstrate our spontaneity by live broadcasting from The Abbey Resort. Who are the guests? That, I do not know. I may just talk to myself, my roomie Ben McCready, or the person in charge of The Abbey’s social media account (which is killer). Or, if you’re at the conference and want to make an appearance, tweet at us @ELGL50.  We have a real life microphone and guests receive an ELGL coffee mug.


Ear Candy

In between keeping my wandering eye on Al and Tipper, I downed a couple of podcasts – Pardon My Take and Dad Rock. The episode of Dad Rock spoke to me because the guests were recounting the story on sitting on the lawn for a Chris Stapleton concert. This experience caused them to realize sitting on the lawn for a concert is miserable and full of stumbling young kids who consumed to much at the pregame picnic.

I’ve a life rule that I don’t sit on the lawn for concerts and I don’t sit in seats located in the 300 level or above. I’d rather be home watching it on television or trying to understand my 6-year old who is speaking in Spanish. (If you said to yourself  that last sentence was a “humble brag” you are right. My 6-year old is in Spanish immersion and knows more Spanish than you or I will ever know.


June 21

Twitter List

Here’s a Twitter list with conference attendees. Who’d I miss?

One Big Ruse


Full Disclosure: I am a tad nervous about this trip to the Abbey Resort in Fontana, WI. I’ve asked a handful of people that I know from Wisconsin about the Abbey Resort, and their response is a blank stare. This can only mean a few things:

  1. This whole thing is a ruse created by Ben McCready.
  2. People are nervous that I am going to talk about the 2015 NFC Championship Game for the entirety of my stay.
  3. Folgers Coffee is served at the Abbey Resort and everyone is aware that I find this unacceptable.
  4. People are worried that I’ll swim in Lake Geneva, thereby spreading my hipster-ness to the entire Midwest.

Regardless, I am super siked for tomorrow’s flight with me, myself, and I (and 200 or so other passengers.) For the first leg of my flight, I have a middle seat. I’d welcome anyone with Delta connections to pull some strings. First class would be delightful.


What’s on Tap?

ELGL will be presenting two sessions at the conference – Last 60 Days and Managing Your Digital Personality.

TWITTERWCMA and ILCMA will be tweeting for the first time at the conference!  Follow @ILCMA, @ELGL50, and @WCMA_WI, and #WIILCMA2016.

Thursday and Friday session handouts can be downloaded at the following link:  Note that there will not be hard copies provided at the conference and a few sessions do not have a handout or PowerPoint.

Fun Fact: The Abbey Resort has a Snapchat account.


Reader Input


So, one of the conference events is a, “Bears/Packers BBQ – Wear your Bear’s or Packer’s gear at this fun event on the Harbor Lawn!  The BBQ will take place on the Harbor Lawn.  In case of rain, it will be moved inside to the Harbor Ballroom.”

Does this mean I can’t wear my Seahawks Super Bowl gear? I’d love your input on this one.


H/T #1

Our first hat tip and we’re still 23 hours away from our flight. I love the event brochure for the conference. This should be used as a template for every local government conference. Bonus points for the Lake Geneva boat cruise. Don’t worry I will not wear a bathing suit.