Knope of the Week: Julie Underwood, Former Shoreline (WA) City Manager and ELGL Columnist

Posted on January 10, 2014

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Thought Provoking. Breath of Fresh Air. Effective Leader. Accomplished Writer.


These superlatives describe Julie Underwood, the first Knope of the Week in 2014. Julie is an ELGL columnist and former Shoreline (WA) city manager. But before we get too far in telling you why Julie and Leslie Knope are kindred spirits, you might be asking, “what on earth is the Knope of the Week?”

giphyThat’s a pretty good question, the Knope of the Week is the local government equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, the Golden Globe, the Nobel Peace Prize, and Pulitzer Prize (minus the red carpet and incoherent acceptance speeches) all rolled into one. This prestigious award was featured in American City & County

Simply put, ELGL awards the Knope of the Week to the individual or group who made the biggest difference in the local government arena for that week. Past recipients range from Bonnie Svrcek, ICMA President and Lynchburg (VA) Deputy City Manager to Todd Silverstein, Vizify Co-Founder and CEO to Bruce Katz, Co-Author of The Metropolitan Revolution to Ben Kittelson, ELGL Project Manager. Those who have not received the Knope of the Week include Dennis Rodman, Anthony Weiner, Richard Nixon, Bob Filner, Rob Ford, and Kwame Kilpatrick

Background Check on Julie

Connect with Julie: LinkedIn and Twitter

download (1)Julie Thuy Underwood is currently in transition due to spouse’s job relocation to Silicon Valley, CA. Julie was appointed Shoreline City Manager February 2011 and served until October 2013. Previously Julie was the Assistant City Manager for Shoreline and had been in that position since 2002. Before coming to Shoreline, Julie worked for the City of Rockville, Maryland as the Assistant to the City Manager and as a management assistant. Julie has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government and Politics from George Mason University. She has also received the Credentialed Manager designation from the International City/County Management Association. Julie has also served on the Washington City/County Management Association Board from 2007-2011, past president of the Shoreline Breakfast Rotary Club, and served on the Municipal Research & Services Center Board.

Knope Worthy Accomplishments

julie_2What’s on our wishlist for 2014? More Julie Underwood’s, please! Julie has taken ELGL to a new level by sharing experiences from her tenure in Shoreline (WA), and sharing a vision for the future of local government. While it’s easy to talk about sharing experiences and ideas with colleagues, it’s rare that the talk is put into action. Julie has done just that by:

In her most recent column, Julie highlighted this memorable quote from Robert Kennedy, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” We highlight this quote because it is exactly what Julie has done for ELGL and our 400 members. So, what else can we say about Julie……. for that we turn to a few of her colleagues.

Word on the Street

Steve Burkett, Sequim (WA) city managerSmart Communities Award

“One of the more rewarding aspects of a career and city management is those that have helped you along the way and those that you have an opportunity to mentor. Julie is one of several local government professionals that I have had an opportunity to work with and mentor. As I have told Julie. In the past, the secret to being a good mentor is to have a good eye for talented individuals and to offer them jobs!”

Bridget Doyle, Lombard (IL) communications coordinator

“Julie’s perspective on work-life balance is such a breath of fresh air in local government. She is undoubtedly committed to her career and her city, but makes a case for having a life outside of work. Julie’s perspective that better work-life balance creates better employees is spot-on, especially for young women in local government who may want to have a family but continue working.”

Kirsten Wyatt, West Linn (OR) assistant city manager1 ribbon cutting

“Julie makes local government accessible by highlighting the interesting and important aspects of the city management profession.  She shines a light on the good work of local government professionals, which will have a lasting impact by recruiting talent to the profession, and keeping managers in the profession.  Julie is also an accomplished writer, who can quickly and easily communicate about complex topics so anyone can understand.  ELGL is proud to have Julie on its roster of writers, as she helps us accomplish one of our key goals of telling stories about the work we do, and why we do it.”

Julie Novak, The Novak Consulting Group president

“I had the pleasure of first meeting Julie Underwood early in her career when we hired her as an intern in Rockville, Maryland – I knew she was exceptionally talented and I was so glad she went to Shoreline to be (at first) the Assistant City Manager.  Julie proved during her tenure in Shoreline that you can be an effective leader, fabulous mother and wife – all while running an organization that serves 50,000 people.  Julie is inspiring and you have made a great selection with your Knope of the week.”

John McCarter, Novi (MI) city manager’s officepumpkin

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Julie via the ELGL Twittersations. She has always provided an interesting perspective and thought provoking questions.”

Dan Englund, ICMA PSU vice-president

“Julie Underwood is an outstanding ELGL member and contributor.  Her latest blog on work/life balance is an example piece for practitioners on prioritizing balance in our busy lives.  Her described experiences serve as practical anecdotes for the struggles that we all face between the dynamic tensions of our intense workloads and important personal lives.  Best of all, it’s a column that makes you want to feel better.  I can’t wait to hear from her again in the future!  Julie is also a force on twitter and a must follow.”

Kent Wyatt, Tigard (OR) senior management analyst

“I hope current and future local government professionals take note of Julie’s work ethic and dedication to promoting the profession of local government. She is a top-notch writer, fluent in the language of Twitter, and constantly developing new ideas for ELGL and local government. In the time that Julie has been an ELGL contributor, I’ve heard from a number of people about the quality of work and insight that Julie has provided them.  Not to mention, she is doing all this while balancing the demands of being a mom.”

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