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 Katie Walpole (LinkedIn & Twitter), Clark County, Nevada.
My local government story started when I was born in my hometown of Groton, New York. My father served as the fire chief in my hometown and was the village/town justice for over 30 years. My mother served on various boards including the village zoning board. As a result of having parents involved in local government, I learned what public service was from a young age, and it has resonated with me ever since.
During college at Syracuse University, I had the opportunity to intern with two local government entities. The first was with the Skaneateles Village Police Department in Skaneateles, New York. I was enrolled in methods of public policy class that required an internship with a local government entity in the region. During my internship, I worked with the Chief of Police to revise and conduct a community satisfaction survey about the safety of the village and the police officers. Not only did I get to practice outreach and survey analysis, I was able to gain knowledge about public safety. In the end, I created a 30-page report on the findings that was used for planning purposes by the Chief of Police and work to make the community safer.
During my junior year of college, I interned with the Syracuse Housing Authority (SHA). I spearheaded a project that compared crime rates in the City of Syracuse versus the crime rates in SHA properties. There had been a generalization made that the crime rates were higher on SHA properties. The purpose of this project was to disprove that statement. Through the creation of a database and analysis, the generalization was proved to be incorrect. I also gained knowledge of the Housing Choice Voucher Program and worked to manage the waiting list in regards to policy regulation.
The other internships I held during undergrad and grad school were not related to local government. I was interested in exploring other options for a government career path. What I found was that I was not passionate about the work I was doing for those entities. While I gained numerous skill sets that I now use during my daily work for Clark County, Nevada, I did not see the impact I was making. I would work on a project, and once completed, I would often never hear of it again. It was something that bothered me especially when I was working on projects that were supposed to help citizens.
So, as a result, I started to look for local government jobs when I was completing my final year of graduate school. I knew it was time to return to local government and where my passion was. I’ve been with Clark County, Nevada for over a year and a half now, and I cannot imagine working in any other level of government.
Apart from my parents who truly taught me the meaning of public service, Bill Coplin at Syracuse University influenced me to work in local government from the moment I met him. He taught the methods of public policy class that resulted in me interning with the Skaneateles Village Police Department. He further helped me realize that law school was not for me, and that a Master’s of Public Administration degree would better suit me for my passions. He’s been a big supporter of my dreams since I took a class with him in 2009. We continue to email to this day to discuss the issues that I’m working on and to discuss trends in the local government profession.
Currently, at Clark County, I’m constantly grateful to work for two individuals who inspire me on a daily basis. Their passion for local government and their goals to move our department and the County forward are unwavering. In addition, they encourage me to follow my dreams and work towards my career goals. They were 100% behind my decision to join ICMA’s Emerging Leaders Development Program. I’m more than a number or another staff member; they have taken the time to get to know me. That’s something that I did not always find in other positions. I enjoy working for both of them, but I enjoy their mentorship just as much.
It’s a simple reason why I stay in local government. I love it. It may sound cliché, but it is true.
I enjoy waking up each morning and solving whatever problem may come across my desk. Some days, my workload is focused on internal policies and procedures to ensure that my department runs efficiently, and other days, my work is focused on external problems such as an abandoned shopping cart program. I have a tendency to get bored if I do the same thing every day. Local government is never boring. I would also have to say that I work with group a people that are passionate about making the community a better place. And, they know to have fun as well which is sometimes important in the local government profession. Comradeship is important in the workplace, and I’m glad that my colleagues have become my friends.