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Karl Knapp – Budget Director, Cary (NC)

Posted on November 17, 2014


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Welcome to the new and (somewhat) improved version of our member introductions. If you are puzzled by the column name, take a minute to watch this scene from Austin Powers. Today we sit down with Karl Knapp the Budget Director for Cary, NC.

Background Check

karl knappKarl Knapp is the current Budget Director for the Town of Cary, NC a community of 151,088 people west of Raleigh. He recently completed his first year at the Cary and prior to that Mr. Knapp worked for the North Carolina League of Municipalities where he was the Director of Research and Policy Analysis for the League. Before joining the League he worked for the City of Winston-Salem, NC in several capacities. ELGL first met Mr. Knapp at the CPBB Conference in Denver, CO and since he appeared in Ben Kittelson’s job search column as one of the informational interviews. Connect: LinkedIn.

Q & A 

(Complete the sentence) Today is… My first anniversary with the Town of Cary, so I baked my staff a cake to thank them for making my first year better than I could have imagined.

Your hometown? What is it best known for?

My hometown is Boston. It is best known for the Red Sox, a few revolutionaries, and a bunch of people who insist on running from the suburbs to downtown instead of using public transit.

Describe the state of local government in your area.

Local government in the Triangle is very strong. We have a long tradition of professional management. Our local universities have excellent public administration, planning, and engineering programs that provide great talent and support. Our economy is growing, and our local government is still largely intact, despite some recent legislative restrictions.

What topics or practitioners would you like to see ELGL profile?

Learning from mistakes.

(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the….

80’s was……. college life.

90’s was…… getting married and the birth of my children.

00’s was….. Visiting places around the country I’d never been, especially the Grand Canyon.

Last year was… Hiking with my son in New Hampshire.

Today is…. knowing that my daughter has completed all of her college applications.

If you could interview any three people (dead or alive), who would it be?

  • Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • John Adams
  • Robert Frost

(Complete this sentence) I feel old when… I realize that my interns have more in common with my children than they do with me.

We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?

While I didn’t grow up dreaming of being in local government, my dream job as a 12-year-old actually was being the Governor (of a state, not like in the Walking Dead). I was interested in government and politics from an early age because I wanted to make the world a better place. I got into local government because it was the level where I could have the most direct effect on people’s lives. My first local government job was as a budget analyst for the City of Winston-Salem, but I’d already worked as an a analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice and the North Carolina legislative fiscal research staff.

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

  • As Director of Research and Policy Analysis for the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the estimates that I prepared in 2013 on the fiscal effect of major tax reform bills on each municipality in the State fueled an intense lobbying campaign by local officials that led to additional revenues for municipalities, rather than the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • When I took over as the Director of the Policy and Statistics Division at the NC Department of Revenue in 2002, the Division had lapsed into irrelevance in the development of tax policy. By empowering the existing staff, filling long vacant positions with talented people, publishing significant amounts of data and analysis, and setting a standard of rapid turnaround for requests from the Governor and legislature, we were able to revive the reputation of the Division.
  • As Intergovernmental Coordinator for the City of Winston-Salem, I prevented the incorporation of two towns that would have completed the encirclement of the city.  Part of the area slated for incorporation was later annexed and became a major economic development site.

(Complete the sentence) ELGL is… an innovative organization that brings together people who want to make a difference through service in local government.

Where do you hear about ELGL?

By meeting its founders at the Center for Priority Based Budgeting conference in 2014.

potholesGive us two ideas for attracting and retaining talented individuals to the public sector.

To attract talented people, you have to sell local government whenever you speak about it. Let them know that local government isn’t just about potholes and zoning cases, it is what creates the building blocks for civilization. To retain talented people, make them feel valued by setting clear expectations, empowering them to find ways to do the job better, and regularly showing appreciation for their efforts.

What’s one question that we should ask the next person who completes this profile?

What book had the most influence on your professional development?

(Complete the sentence) Tomorrow is… an hour away.

Supplemental Reading

Allow Myself – The Archives

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