Ben McCready, Rock Island, IL assistant to the city manager, reflects on professional input gathered in 2014.
Earlier this year I found myself in the halls of the Kennedy School post #ELGL14. Left to my own devices and a cup of complimentary coffee, I reflected on the whirlwind adventure of #ELGL14. The experience was one in which I played the role of coordinator, moderator, friend, observer, participant, and in one near disaster a hero as my quick thinking (and an awesome team of Alaska Airlines employees) resulted in the recovery of a cell phone left behind the impenetrable wall of TSA security checkpoints at PDX.
My reflections begin with the conclusion of Emily Badger’s keynote session, moderated by Josh Gregor. Following our session with Emily and Josh, Kirsten Wyatt challenged us to “share our own stories” at the closing social hour, instantaneously transitioning the crowd from uproarious applause to networking extraordinaires. Amidst the conversation I was asked if I knew very many people in attendance. A simple question, with an answer that reveals more about the strengths of ELGL than it does myself.
My immediate response of “yes”, speaks to the strength of ELGL and how its members using forms of communication some may have referred to as “alternative” not so long ago. Using the same form of communication that bind communities, families, and neighborhoods, ELGL members share their local government experiences across generational, organizational, and geographic boundaries. After all, why should any of these attributes or the medium dictate where we look for innovation or make what we learn from these connections any less applicable to what we do?
Now for the second part of my response. As we prepared for the initial What is an Assistant to the City Manager? posts, it became apparent that ELGL’s communication tools – tweets, posts, and webinars – are only part of the equation. It’s up to ELGL members to turn these outlets into engagement tools that help them build substantive relationships with others in the local government arena.
In drawing this conclusion, it seemed fitting I take advantage of the opportunities opened up by ELGL. I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say, I opened up the computer, and with some trepidation, began my own campaign to connect with various other professionals to ask more about their perspective, career paths, and challenges.
The campaign quickly gained momentum and I found myself speaking with a variety of individuals from coast to coast. This injection of professional input and insight fueled a whirlwind couple of months preceding #ELGL14. What I discovered was that much of what we are searching for is already there, sometimes we just need help bringing it into focus.
In next weeks follow up column we will expand upon this 2014 year end reflection to explore a top ten list of takeaways from conversations with Managers, Administrators, Department Directors, Assistant’s, consultants, retired professionals and some #ELGL14 wisdom.