What is an Assistant to the City Manager? In between other duties as assigned, council meetings, and a bewildering assortment of public inquiries, ELGL members identify the essential functions of the position.
Nate Broman-Fulks (LinkedIn and Twitter) currently serves as Assistant to the Town Manager for the Town of Carrboro, NC. Nate initially completed his undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of South Carolina, along with internships in the South Carolina State Senate and Attorney General’s Office. Upon graduation he participated in the AmeriCorp’s Vista Program and served as a cultural ambassador with the Spanish Ministry of Education.
In 2011 Nate found his way to North Carolina State University where he began to further pursue his interests in local government. While at North Carolina State, he served as President of the Graduate Association of Public Administration and served as a legislative affairs intern in Washington D.C. However, not to be overlooked was a Management and Economic Development focused internship with the local council of governments. In December 2013, Nate completed a Masters of Public Administration and Masters of International Studies.
Nate joined the Town of Carrboro as Assistant to the Town Manager this past June. If this sounds familiar, it should! Nate is one of two emerging local government leaders serving in this role. He works jointly with not only the Town Manager, but also with Julie Eckenrode who also serves as Assistant to the Town Manager. With a vast array of experience, Nate is no stinger to a variety of topics including foreign trade, legislative research, and non-profit organizations to name a few.
Your First Job?
My first job was as a Pharmacy Technician in High School. I wore a white coat and looked super official as a 17 year old filling prescriptions. Pretty scary they let me do that looking back on it.
Last concert you attended?
Recently I went to New Orleans and heard a lot of great music, but I guess the last official concert I went to was The Lumineers at the Cary KoKa Booth Ampitheatre (excited to see the Avett Brothers on New Year’s Eve in Raleigh)
Book you are currently reading?
Small is Possible: Life in a local economy by Lyle Estill
Favorite restaurant in your community?
In Right now it’s the Spotted Dog, mainly for their amazing pimento cheese sandwich, but there are quite a few I still haven’t been able to try yet.
What are three projects you are currently working on?
- Affordable Housing is an area I spend about half of my time on. We are currently working on the creation of an interlocal agreement with two other municipalities, our county government and a nonprofit housing provider. Whenever you have this many parties at the table with some different interests, it can be an interesting and long process. This project has been really interesting though because I’m learning a lot about how different governments can work together on a common goal.
- Livability Assessment. Ensuring Carrboro is a place people of all ages, incomes and ability levels can live is very important to our town. I’ve recently completed a Livability Assessment Pilot Program that our area Council of Governments created. This involved working with many departments to analyze how well we currently stand in areas like walkability, safety, healthcare access, community involvement, etc.
- HVAC study. The Town of Carrboro has set a goal to reduce our 1990 level of greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020. I am working with the Public Works Director on a study of our HVAC system in the largest Town owned building to increase energy efficiency and lower our emissions. This has involved analyzing emission trends, system functions, and creating an appropriate RFP.
How do you interact with City Departments?
One of the great aspects of my job is the level of interaction I am able to have with other departments. One of the main roles I have is to serve as a resource on projects for our Planning, Public Works, and Community and Economic Development departments. I’m normally in meetings with or talking to these departments on a daily basis.
Who do you report to? What is your place on the Org Chart?
I report to the Town Manager, David Andrews. Carrboro has two Assistant to the Town Manager but no Assistants or Deputies.
Aside from a City Manager, who are three professionals or peers you connect with on a regular basis?
- Renee Boyette, Assistant to the Triangle J Council of Governments’ Executive Director
- Cara Bridges, Government Affairs Assistant at the North Carolina League of Municipalities
- Michael James, ICMA/NCACC Management Fellow for Lee County NC
Did you attend any conferences as a student? Do you attend any now?
Yes, I attended the North Carolina City/County Manager’s Association conference in grad school. It was a great conference for students to attend because they put a large focus on attracting young people to local government. One of the best parts of that experience was a speed coaching session where you were able to sit down with 6 different municipal and county managers to have conversations about their experience and ask any questions that you have. Excellent way to make connections and learn from their experience. I have not attended any since I started in July but plan to attend many including the ICMA conference.
How do you recommend reaching out to someone for career advice?
I have found that utilizing a connection you already have to make introductions for you can be very effective. One of the connections I made in an internship helped introduce me to multiple people who then were able to connect me with more people. If you are able to cultivate a connection and show that you will represent them well when they refer you to other people, it can really open a lot of doors.
Best three questions to ask when connecting with a City Manager?
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were beginning your career in local government?
- What are a couple of things that I should be doing right now to help prepare myself for a management career?
- How do you see the local government management profession changing?
Getting the Job
Preparing for an interview, three pieces of advice.
- Have to research where you are interviewing. Go through their website, find articles and stories from their local media outlets, research the professional history of your interviewers and talk to people who have lived there or know about it. Try to have an understanding of what you are walking into when you arrive for the interview.
- Review your own work. Make sure you have refreshed your memory on any projects you have worked on that could be applied to your interview. I hate it when I think of a great answer a few minutes after the interview is over. I’ve found making sure I’ve thought through my own work and study history can help avoid that.
- Be prepared to think on your feet. All your preparation can be quickly thrown out of the window when they ask you a question that you’ve never thought of before.
How many jobs should I be applying for?
As many as you can find that interest you and are in an area you would like to live.
What job titles should an MPA student be considering?
I wouldn’t get too caught up in titles. Titles mean different things at different places. I think focusing on the actual job description is more important. I looked for a job that would allow me to gain the experience I need to have the career I want.
Most difficult thing about getting the first job?
Finding the right fit. It took me almost six months after graduating to find my current job. It just so happens that of all the places I applied to and interviewed at, this is the job that I wanted the most. Finding that job out of school that aligns with your interests and allows you to utilize your knowledge and skills can be tough. I was fortunate that after a lot of grinding, I was able to find that fit.
One day you’re a student and one day you’re a gainfully employed City employee, what changed?
Accountability. I was fortunate to have some good internships in grad school that allowed me to do interesting, challenging and fairly important work. The work that I am doing now isn’t that much more complicated than some of the work I did as an intern. The main difference is it’s on me now. Before I would normally be working pretty closely with a supervisor. Now I have a lot of freedom to do things the way I think they should be done. It’s a pretty exciting but also a bit scary change.
What skills do you rely on most to be successful in your job?
Interpersonal and analytical. Interpersonal skills are important because my job entails interacting with the Town Manager, different departments, and many citizens who call or come in with all sorts of concerns. Being able to form positive relationships with a variety of people is important. If I’m not able to do that then I am not able to get things accomplished.
Analytical is also important in two ways. One is the ability to assess situations and understand how to act in them. The second is the ability to analyze methods for planning and implementing projects.
Best practical experiences vs. Academic experiences.
I think two classes have and will continue to help a lot in my professional career. The first class is organizational behavior. This has been important because it has allowed me to better understand dynamics within organizations and strategies for acting within them or managing them. The second course is management systems. At NC State we have an incredible professor who teaches this course, Dr. James Swiss. When you take his course, you come out having a good understanding of performance management which I think is incredibly important for local governments.
I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA after college that provided me with experience working in the nonprofit world. That experience has been very beneficial to me in my current role because I am working with a lot of nonprofits on affordable housing. Being able to understand how that sector works and the challenges they face has not only helped me understand how the affordable housing providers here work but has also helped me build relationships with them.