A Tale of Two Cities: Reflections From a Dual MPA Internship Experience

Posted on May 10, 2013

imagesThis is the first installment in a new ELGL original content series titled “A Tale of Two Internships” by University of Kansas MPA graduate Ashley Graff.  Graff recently obtained a shared internship with the City of West Linn and the City of Sherwood.  In this series, Graff provides perspective on the experience of working for two communities and the similarities and differences she experiences with each.


In March I began working for two cities at the same time. I hadn’t planned on this alternative arrangement when seeking an internship to complete my degree, but two months of experience has confirmed that this is a remarkable learning opportunity!

I originally applied for a full-time, 12-week internship with the City of West Linn, Oregon. Yet by the time I interviewed for the position, Kirsten Wyatt, Assistant City Manager of West Linn, and Joe Gall, City Manager of Sherwood, had formed a new partnership. They jointly offered a full-time, 6-month internship, and I now split my time evenly between both cities each week.

Though I had prior work experience, I had never been employed in a city or county before, and I began my internship with only theoretical knowledge about local government (and just a touch of nerves). Now though, I can’t imagine a better introduction to the field than experiencing the work of two cities simultaneously. I believe that this collaborative arrangement creates value for intern and city both, as it increases communication and the exchange of ideas between neighboring municipalities and provides an intern a range of experiences from which to draw comparisons and make connections.

There are a number of advantages to working with West Linn and Sherwood at the same time, but what I like best is that I’m afforded double the opportunity for unique experiences. From the perspective of an intern hoping to learn as much as possible, I’m fortunate to get the chance to:

  • observe the dynamics of two different council/manager relationships
  • meet and work with two sets of coworkers (which, incidentally, is a challenge in the beginning in terms of remembering names!)
  • acquaint myself with and adapt to the different management, mentoring and working styles of my colleagues and supervisors
  • work on a wide variety of projects, and save time and resources for both cities when the products of my work can be shared
  • operate within two different counties and gain a more complete understanding of the regional environment
  • listen in on and learn from double the conversations and strategy sessions between management team members
  • attend twice the meetings, workshops and training events
  • identify common struggles between municipalities, observe the response and share pertinent lessons with both cities

While some challenges exist, most of mine are related to adapting to local government rather than the shared-intern model, and the positives far outweigh any negatives. In the coming months I will explore some of the above topics in more depth and discuss any new observations or challenges that arise. I would be happy to address questions or comments, so please feel free to be in touch!

Ashley Graff works as the Public Affairs and Economic Development Intern in West Linn and Sherwood. She also recently graduated with her MPA degree from the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. A dedicated public servant, Ashley spent 7 years working in public school systems and the nonprofit sector before transitioning to local government. She and her husband now live in Portland. Contact Ashley by email at agraff@westlinnoregon.gov or graffa@sherwoodoregon.gov.

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