It Matters Who You Associate With

Posted on May 15, 2018

What I’m listening to – GovLove podcasts as I get excited for #ELGL18

What I’m watching – youth soccer

What I’m doing – ELGL strategic planning

I am a joiner. I have always seen the value of relationships and learning so I have gravitated to places where I can learn from peers and be mentored by others. I see membership in associations like ELGL and other groups as critical to an individual’s success – you gain new perspectives, learn tactics, and sometimes just socialize with peers in similar communities. This is the stuff that helps you do your job at a high level.
Better than just being a member I’ve gained tremendously from being an involved member of each association I’ve joined – I am a past president, a member of several standing or ad hoc committees, and a current ELGL Board Member.

Participation assures that I get the most from my memberships. Admittedly, I have a high threshold for participation and, not to be Pollyanna (though I’ve been accused of that), I view it as an imperative to live the Athenian oath and “make it better”.

As a current member of ELGL, ICMA, and the Colorado City/County Management Association (CCCMA) and a past president of MMASC I know that associations come in all flavors. I encourage you to find the membership that fits your needs. I have found a niche in each association – often through going beyond simply “joining” by volunteering for a committee or actively participating in organizational planning.
For me, a key part of “fit” is knowing what I want. There are dozens of both national and regionally focused government associations and each offers a different value to its members.

  • ELGL has been a great fit for me personally because of its focus on big ideas across a big tent. ELGL members don’t stand on convention, they speak their minds openly, they accept other perspectives and they are open to all ages and stages.
  • ICMA has been a fit for me because I aspire to be a City or County Manager and its focus tends to be on building to that top job. I have been an active member so I have managed to make ICMA’s size more intimate – I have a cohort of close friends from my Leadership ICMA experience and from committees that I have served.
  • MMASC or Colorado’s Emerging Managers program have been nice fits for developmental stages in my career because I was able to step outside of the confines of my job and grow skills I needed to advance. Both expanded my professional connections regionally so that I could learn from peers living within the same confines as I work.

It is important to me that an association mirrors my passion for public service, my need for topical and emerging practice information, my beliefs in inclusion, diversity and equitable access to opportunities, and my knowledge that local government can be great only when it embraces all perspectives and peoples.
A primary reason I joined the ELGL was a belief in the mission and a feeling that local government needed ELGL. I try to see all associations as valuable but it was (and sadly, still is) obvious that until ELGL came to the scene and matured into what it is now becoming there was not a national-level voice for the diversity of local government professions or people.

ELGL struck a nerve by pointing out a critical need for gender equity in local government management with the 13 percent hashtag. Without striking a nerve and provoking dialogue there would not be change… the awareness of the problem leads to important conversations about how to solve the problem.

ELGL continues to work on gender issues and diversity among local government leadership through the Diversity Dashboard (with an important financial contribution from ICMA). ELGL recently published thoughts on diversity in response to ICMA. These are important consciousness-raising exercises that provoke uncomfortable but critically important conversations.
Ultimately, I see the role of membership organizations to improve their members and, as a result, the profession. ELGL has attempted to raise the bar through authentic dialogue on wicked problem, to seek big changes needed to bring more diverse voices to the table, and to celebrate a collective passion for service. We are doing this through technology, with a questioning perspective (“why is it this way?” and “how do we change the way it’s always been?”). That’s a tough place for a new association to be but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

ELGL membership makes optimistic for local government because we take the big tent approach to have a conversation. Our programming is fresh, authentic and honest.

I hope that you are motivated by something you read or heard from another ELGL member to have a crucial conversation where you work or live. More than that, I hope you are motivated to participate – to join us in shaping the future.

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