What was your local government moment? What keeps you in local government? Who have been the influences in your career? We take a deep dive into these questions by asking you (the practitioner) to tell your local government story. You can sign up to participate in the bi-monthly feature at Finding Local Government. Thanks to Matt Wojnowski, City of Altus, OK, for developing and coordinating the feature.
By Ben Collins (Web, LinkedIn, Twitter), Township Administrator, Plain Township, Franklin County, OH
I was a political science major at the Ohio State University and interested in government operations. The Franklin County Engineer was hiring summer help, and I thought it was a good way to learn about local government. I had the opportunity to see public works projects from planning to completion and work with highly regarded professionals. It was diverse work and such a great experience that I worked three summers there.
As an undergraduate, I completed an internship with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation that involved indexing attorney registration reports and auditing bank remittance reports for Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA). While in graduate school, I received a research fellowship with Summit County Council and was exposed to additional arenas of local government.
I recall one project involved scanning and indexing township annexations printed on tissue paper – an antiquated material that was a hundred years old. This was my first exposure to townships, paper roads and annexations. I was excited to learn more about how government works and what goes on in the background.
In each of those experiences, I had a great boss that was happy to share their knowledge and experience. The individual relationships played a big part in making the experience enjoyable and engaging, which encouraged me to take the next step. I was able to interact with elected officials, attend public meetings, and have a hands-on role in making government work. It was exciting, and it was not long before I considered a career in public service.
After completing graduate school and law school, I served as an assistant prosecutor in the Delaware County prosecutor’s office and worked with county agencies and townships. I attended tons of local meetings, working on the gritty details of specific local issues. I enjoyed working with elected officials and residents while engaging local government leaders.
In my current role as a township administrator, I wear numerous hats and hold numerous titles – but the objective is the same, to make local government work. I report to an elected board of trustees, manage daily relationships with a dozen other political subdivisions and help lead a staff of dedicated professionals.
One thing I love about my job is helping to solve problems, whether it’s a resident, official or employee working on a challenge. I have the opportunity to help residents solve real life problems and improve their quality of life. Working with officials and staff on projects and solutions is a great opportunity to improve local government and accomplish meaningful results.
I can look back at the 50,000 people who attended our community pool or the 1,200 acre park finally taking shape after a decade and know that lives are different because of the work we do.