When I told co-workers and friends I was headed to a conference in Kansas City, most sighed or rolled their eyes in a sympathetic way; to many, Kansas City ignites images of a run-of-the-mill mid-sized Midwestern city. To me, Kansas City is a happy place. I went to undergrad at the University of Missouri, so heading to Kansas City feels like a mini homecoming. It’s two hours from my alma mater and full of people that won’t look at me with confusion or disgust if I rock my Mizzou Tiger apparel. Throughout college, I would often make the drive to Kansas City for the weekend or even a short girls trip. Kansas City is gorgeous, full of history, great shopping (hel-lo Plaza), awesome food and a consistently strong music and art culture.
My love for Kansas City may be because my Midwest roots run deep. I was born and raised in Chicago, currently live in Detroit and went to school in Columbia, Mo. That’s not to say I’m sheltered or don’t appreciate all regions of the country; I’ve lived in New York City, Denver, Macon, Ga., traveled around the U.S. and parts of the world. But, there is just something to me about the Midwest. The Midwest is kindness, heartiness and a sense of pride for your hometown.
We cheer for our sports teams even when they go decades, even centuries without winning titles. We suffer through sub-zero winters and find a sense of camaraderie in making it to spring. Summers truly valued and most often spent at one of the Great Lakes—and there is nothing better in the world than a brisk fall day. Midwesterners talk to strangers in grocery stores and wave to their neighbors. Kansas City is no exception to these generalizations. People in Kansas City are proud of their hometown and want to see it succeed. I’m excited for KCMO to get the opportunity to show off it’s assets and beauty to local govies from around the country.
As mentioned in Kirsten’s recent post, I’m a convert. My original career path was journalism but I’ve found an untapped passion in local government, which is why I was thrilled when the session Kirsten and I pitched was chosen for the conference this year. To be honest, I’ve never felt particularly welcomed to ICMA. I’m currently a Community Relations Director and took a non-traditional path to this position. When I’ve peeked into ICMA blog posts and material in the past, my perception is that many (not all) in the organization really value those who go through the traditional path. Well, that ain’t me.
Now that I’m pursuing an MPA and hoping to continue growing my local gov career, ICMA membership and participation seems more viable. But, I’m still a bit curious about what this conference will look like from my self-described outsider position. I’m sure, like most conferences, it will be a mix of an “old boys club” and burgeoning leaders and change makers. I’m looking forward to seeing what ICMA in KCMO will tell me about the national local government landscape, specifically community engagement and communication. I’m hoping to snag some take-aways from the sessions and make some new connections. I hope to leave with energy and new ideas, and I’ll describe my sentiment as (cautiously) optimistic.
KCMO, here we go. M-I-Z…