Guidepost #10 – Marc Nelson

Posted on September 24, 2014

Nelson Connection

Welcome to week #10 of the Cookingham Connection. Today, we hear from Marc Nelson, City of Roanoke, VA.


Guidepost #10Give credit where credit belongs, and always give the council all the credit you can. They have to be re-elected.

For my entry to the Cookingham collective, I feel it apt to begin with a quote originally attributed to the early 20th Century novelist and essayist Charles Edward Montague:

“There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.”

Because the theme of this week’s Guidepost is giving credit where credit is due, it’s only fitting to acknowledge the various, mostly anonymous contributors at Wikipedia, not only for enlightening me as to the accuracy of Mr. Montague’s quote, but also for making me aware he ever existed at all. Without them, I would be (improperly) singing the praises of former US President Harry Truman or the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, both of whom, it’s been rumored, were pretty good at their jobs, as well.

All humor aside, the underlying message of Dave O’Leary’s Guidepost permeates all aspects of a public sector career – the work is inherently rewarding, but it can also be hard and seemingly thankless, which is all the more reason to generously thank those who help you along the way.

I have worked in local government project management for nearly eight years. During that time, I’ve attended my share of groundbreaking ceremonies and ribbon-cutting celebrations, all of which have included warm remarks directed to the laundry list of dignitaries and VIPS who helped make that project a reality. City employees don’t often listen for their names to be called during such remarks, which makes it all the more special to see their faces light up when they do.

On the other hand, it’s standard protocol to thank City Council members on such occasions and for good reason – they are typically the final stop for approval on most projects and the first to hear from the public if something goes wrong. Elected officials are the gatekeepers for public trust and many have spent a lifetime building a reputation worthy of serving their communities. By publically thanking them for their time and investment, you’re also acknowledging the underlying belief and trust they place in you.

Another legendary basketball coach, Dean Smith, once said “I do believe in praising that which deserves to be praised.”

More often than not, a successful career in the public sector provides us with ample opportunities to do just that. Lucky us.

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