Knope of the Week: Bonnie Svrcek, ICMA President and Lynchburg (VA) Deputy City Manager

Posted on July 19, 2013

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American City & County Magazine Highlights Knope of the Week

What is the Knope of the Week? It’s ELGL’s way of recognizing an individual or group of individuals who have excelled in promoting the public sector. Recipients may come from the public or private sector and are nominated by ELGL members. Recipients receive an incredible amount of recognition and prizes that we are not at liberty to disclose. The storied history of the award dates back to 2012.


Bonnie Svrcek

Current Position: ICMA President and City of Lynchburg, Deputy City Manager

Education: University of Maryland College Park, Bachelor of Science, Housing and Applied Design; University of Southern California Washington D.C. Public Affairs Center MPA, Public Administration; and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Certificate, Excellence in State and Local Govt Executive Education

 Knope-Worthy Contributions

ELGL hosted its first presidential visit this week. Bonnie Svrcek, ICMA president, was our guest and she did not disappoint. Her visit was inspiring, and especially relevant since her presidential platform is increasing the involvement of women and the next generation in local government.

Portland is a shining example of an area that is exceeding expectations in those areas. We have an ICMA student chapter at Portland State University and a number of students involved in ELGL. We also have a number of women leaders in the area including: Martha Bennett, Oregon Metro COO; Sherilyn Lombos, Tualatin city manager; Marty Wine, Tigard city manager; and Linda Norris, Salem city manager.

ELGL was privileged to be one of Bonnie’s two non-ICMA related visits. Her other visit was to the University of Kansas Women’s Leadership Conference.

To recap Bonnie’s visit we have enlisted the help of our Twitter feed and we have asked ELGL members to share “Just One Thing” that they took away from Bonnie’s visit.

Many thanks to Bonnie and the first husband for making the cross country trip to Portland. We hope to see them again when the ICMA Conference comes to town in 2021.

Forum RecapPresentation: Defining Moments, Lessons Learned and “Just One Thing” and More by Bonnie Svrcek, ICMA President


Comments captured below are from the following Twitter Feeds: @OregonELGL@benkittelson56@JRTowery@QuiteaWyatt, and @kowyatt

Recognizing the deputies and assistants in the profession…A reason for the importance of #Svrceks @icma presidency.

@icma presidents travel to visit state organizations. #Svrcek has traveled 21 times in 2013. #elgl is one of two invites she accepted.

@ICMA PSU student chapter is the first in the Northwest. “Unmatched energy in OR!”

Life is all about timing. Wise words from @ICMA president #Svrcek.

Dueling public administrators: @CityofTualatin ACM Rouyer and @icma pres #Svrcek both claim the same mentor (Ron Secrist) for their local govt careers.

#Svrcek was courageous and sought people out who could offer advice and wisdom to lead her to first ACM role. 1060228_10201909877051303_37858523_n

We need to say yes with pleasure and no with compassion. @ICMA president #Svrcek

Learned to be patient, be conscious of ego, things aren’t always what they seem. Advice from @ICMA president #Svrcek.

Really important to have a strong relationship between CM and ACM. We have to communicate with our bosses, they aren’t mind readers.

Patience pays off. #Svrceks move from Blacksburg to Lynchburg was the result of her patience.

I decided I needed to find myself a husband. Spoken like a true, driven public administrator.

The single most important decision is the decision to choose a life long partner. Choose wisely. Wise advice from @icma pres #Svrcek

#Svrcek served as DCM and Comm Dev Director for 18 mos. Double duty, tough work.

We need to understand that some of our greatest lessons come from our greatest disappointments. @icma president #Svrcek.

Important to have a Plan B in your life to work through hurdles.

#svrcek attended the @Harvard @kennedyschool state and local govt program.

Lessons learned: recover from disappointments, seize the moments, and have crucial conversations with your bosses. @icma president #Svrcek

#Svrcek applied for a job in #NorthCarolina where our very own @QuiteaWyatt‘s dad was interim city manager #ELGL

Becoming the president of @ICMA was a defining moment of my career. #Svrcek

Quite shocked that I was only candidate to become 2013 president.

Timing is everything. @icma tenure is a defining moment.

You can choose to be a figurehead president of @ICMA or you can choose a few issues that your really want to champion. #Svrcek

One key trait to executive leadership is humility. #Svrcek reads and quotes @jimcollins. So does @HooperHoopla

Rise through levels of leadership…#Svrcek is ready to conclude her term as @icma president.

Focused on member engagement, women in leadership, & increased number of student chapters. “Just one thing…” that you have done for @icma. Member engagement examples: attend conference, start a student chapter, participate in assistants exchange.

Assistants exchange gives the chance for assistants to spend the day in a community to learn how they do things. Share ideas together.

Other “just one thing” ideas: become a credentialed @icma manager, assist a member in transition, donate to @lifewellrun.

#svrcek met #slovakian city managers through @icma. International perspectives from @icma give “priceless” viewpoints.

Talking about gender issues is anathema for some female local govt managers. #Svrcek wants to explore why, and how we change that. I wanted to believe gender issues in local govt wasn’t an issue but then I saw the data. Looking at why the percentages of women in the profession haven’t changed in 20 years.

“There’s a whole pipeline of professionals we need to consider for leadership roles.”

“As of yesterday, we have increased # of student chapters from 17 to 27.”

Interesting: @icma doing more outreach to military to bring them into the profession. Also doing outreach to nonprofit sectors to recruit.1057903_10201910040415387_1854281680_n

@CityofTualatin CM with great observation about women in the profession: are there more in the workplace but just not at top level?

@oregonmetro COO with great question about tenet 7 of @icma code of ethics and how it relates to CAOs in strong mayor forms of govt. @icma has had discussions and webinars about tenet 7 of code and what it means for members, especially those in non council-manager orgs. @icma PSU students are getting engaged with code of ethics and what it means to them.

@PatMobley wants to know how you practice humility and timing in a down economy. #Svrcek acknowledges that patience and timing aren’t easy, but you need to try to do all you can and the right thing will come along.

@ICMA local govt fellows program is very dynamic and competitive for #nextgen leaders. Need more communities to step up and participate, tho

@WheelerJordan with perspective on value of ACM DCM jobs in the profession and how @icma can do more to explain the value of these jobs. #Svrcek acknowledges the decrease in analyst type positions. Not sure what @icma can do to help them.

@icma has not convened a meeting with peer organizations to talk about #nextgen issues.

What Did You Takeaway from Bonnie’s Visit?

Ben Kittelson, ELGL project assistant and PSU MPA student:

I loved her saying: “say yes with humility and no with compassion.” The importance of humility and keeping egos in check was also an important takeaway.

Jeff Towery, Springfield assistant city manager:

“Say yes with pleasure and no with compassion.”

Jacques Livingston, PSU MPA student and former AmeriCorps Director, Olympic Peninsula YMCA

“Bring humility to your role at the executive level.”

Ashley Graff, cities of West Linn and Sherwood public affairs

“Remember to take stock of your long- and short-term goals at least once per year.”

Mary Beth Henry, City of Portland, Office for Community Technology/Mt Hood Cable Regulatory Commission manager

“Some of our greatest learning’s come from disappointments”

Kirsten Wyatt, West Linn assistant city manager

I was so impressed with Bonnie’s candor and graciousness.  She is the perfect representative of the professional manager – competent, personable, and smart.  I am so pleased that all of us in Oregon had the chance to learn from Bonnie during her visit.

Pat Mobley, Portland State University faculty and Milwaukie business analyst

“Let your passion guide you and you’ll eventually wind up where you need to be.”

Marissa Daniels, Tigard associate planner

At first I was like “oh shoot” – “Single most important decision is the decision to choose a lifelong partner.” Then, I was like “Oh, ok – she went shopping online for a husband just like me. To be honest, my takeaway – stop freaking out, everything is fine.

Kent Wyatt, Tigard senior management analyst

Bonnie stressed the importance of timing in a career. Her platform of increasing women involvement in management roles and increasing the next generations involvement in local government could not come at a better time. Her goal of increasing the number of student chapters is type of action item we need as opposed to more talk.

Mark Grabow, Founder of ICMA Portland State University Chapter

Take away– be courageous, yet be mindful of ego. And, “be patient”!

 Supplemental Reading

Previous Winner: Robyn Christie, Bend City Recorder and ELGL CO President


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