Feelin’ the Love for Local Government

Posted on July 26, 2018

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This guest blog is by Jennifer Teal. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and online!

As I’m writing this blog post, my 8-year-old son is sitting at a bank of laptops with a handful of older boys building an epic fortress in Minecraft. My 9-year-old daughter is playing Mario Kart for the first time on a movie-theater sized screen with new friends.  

Behind me, a group of tweens are playing cards, and circulating throughout the room, Mister Bryan, a saint of a man, is keeping order, providing encouragement and giving hints and tips.

This is just a typical Open Gaming session at the Bexley Public Library, which I’m lucky to have just four blocks from my house.

The cacophony of happily gaming kids has got me feeling introspective. I’ve spent most of the last 20 years working in and around governments, the last 10 of which I’ve been in #localgov specifically.

During most of this time, I’ve been on the side of program management—not participation. And while I’ve been staffing public meetings, writing budget impact statements and reporting on attendance metrics, I realize that I haven’t thought as much as I should have about the daily impact of #localgov programs and services to residents and participants.

But this summer is different. In December, I transitioned from being a full-time City Administrator to hanging up my shingle as a #localgov consultant. One of the many advantages of this change is that for the very first time, I am spending the entire summer with my kids instead of shuttling them off to a patchwork of camps and sitters.

One of the disadvantages is that while I’m hanging with my kiddos, I’m not earning any money. This summer I have developed a laser-focus on finding free or low-cost activities for my family.

And how #localgov has delivered! Despite a decade in the trenches, I am overwhelmed by the variety and quality of programs and facilities we have access to.

In the last two weeks alone, we have attended the aforementioned Open Gaming program, learned about wolves and met a real life breed ambassador at an awesome educational program, and learned to draw video game heroes and villains during a cartoon-drawing workshop all at our local library (and that’s in addition to a dozen books borrowed and read and a few hours of Minecraft at the youth computers.)

And we’re not just library nerds. At #localgov parks and open-spaces during this same time, we’ve let off steam on a handful of great playgrounds and have made lifelong memories going on big adventures.

Our inner American Ninja Warriors were put to the test when we tried out the new obstacle course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park. We climbed the closest thing central Ohio has to a mountain, Mt. Pleasant, at Rising Park in Lancaster, OH.

I lost at playing hide-and-seek at Pickerington’s Sycamore Creek Park Arboretum. We became wildlife experts and found big fish, a turtle, two fawns and a mangy fox on a hike of Bexley’s Jeffrey Park.

And crossing over from local to state government, we spent a lovely day swimming, sunning and flying kites on the beach at Alum Creek State Park.

And friends, aside from being a little sunburnt, I am shook.

I’ve been nearly moved to tears by the thoughtfulness of program staff in engaging my kids, meeting them where they are and bringing them out of their shells. When we’ve been tramping through the woods, looking for critters and talking about different types of rocks and trees, I’ve been humbled and a little embarrassed.

Because I’ve talked the local government talk for ages. But it’s only now that I am really experiencing the true value of community investments in parks, trails & open spaces.

In my old life, these magic moments were so often reduced to rows on a spreadsheet, budget line items or FTE’s to be appropriately coded or reconciled.

I’m writing this today for a few reasons. First and most importantly as a massive and heartfelt THANK YOU to the many dedicated staff of the numerous local jurisdictions whose programs and facilities we’ve so thoroughly enjoyed this summer.

Also, I want to provide a thank you by proxy to the rest of my ELGL family. In every one of your cities, towns and libraries you are making magic moments at just the right times for families like my own.

I know that in #localgov life, the thank you notes don’t come often, but that doesn’t mean that your work isn’t appreciated.

And finally, I’m writing to remind myself and all of you to stop and take a moment to enjoy your #localgov as a participant from time to time. It is a great way to refresh, recharge and re-commit to the value of public service.

But now I’ve got to wrap this up. My son has just taken the wheel at Mario Kart, and I promised him I’d watch this race.

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