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What Exactly Is an Assistant to the City Manager?

Posted on September 19, 2014


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Ben McCready, Rock Island (IL) assistant to the city manager, debuts a new column on the role of an assistant to the city manager, and most importantly, he gives you exclusive access into what the heck an assistant to the city manager does.

This past weekend I made a routine trip to the farmers market. Awash in a sea of locals, yokels, and hipsters I navigated my way through the aisles, meticulous in my efforts to hand select only the finest and freshest produce. Relax, this is not going to be a humble brag about how much locally grown food I purchase. Rather, this is a metaphor highlighting the value of “freshness” when it comes to seeking career advice and making the big decisions.

Beginning a local government career is often defined by key moments when aspiring professional make career choices without the benefit of career experience. At these moments there can be no doubt that being connected to a group of trusted practitioners is advantageous to an applicant. In between these punctuated moments of career advancement, career development is taking place unabated by the recruitment and hiring processes. It is in the act of getting from A to B that we learn and grow, admittedly sometimes through making mistakes.

“I think you’ve got several options.Throughout the first steps of a career in local government, aspiring professionals must rely on connections with others to shape our expectations and perception of not only what a career in local government entails but what it means to be a leader. The decisions faced early on are not easy, starting out you may be confronted with relocating or accepting a position you had not anticipated, and that is where aspiring professionals need to supplement the classroom experience, conference sessions, and best guesses with an objective perspective. While the veteran City Manager always has wisdom to share, it may be the Assistant City Manager or Management Analyst who is in a position to better relate to your predicament and offer guidance for navigating the daily in’s and out’s of a career in local government.

ELGL has an “A” team of Assistant To’sthe-pun-y-rules willing to provide insight into their transition from MPA Candidate to gainfully employed local government professional. In between other duties as assigned, council meetings, and a bewildering assortment of public inquiries, Nathan Mosley, Ryan Adams, Clay Curtin, and myself have collaborated to identify a essential advice for the MPA student with aspirations of one day having a job.

Next week ELGL will begin posting a series that addresses the challenges faced by aspiring professionals preparing for a career in local government.

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