Local Gov Employees: They’re Just Like Us!

Posted on December 2, 2021

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co-founder and executive director. Connect with Kirsten on LinkedIn and Twitter.

I occasionally get asked, “what’s going on in local government right now,” or, “what are the big topics that local governments are working on.” One of the best parts of my job is that I get to read everything we publish on ELGL, and this can provide helpful perspective to answer those types of questions.

Over the years we’ve curated a writing culture that accepts everything from case studies and best practices, to research reports and academic papers, to podcast episodes and webinar videos, to personal reflections on working in public service. These different types of posts hold equally important places in the ELGL library.

Today I’d like to write about the personal reflections that I’m grateful our members step up to share. I think it’s important, even when the day is hectic and we need facts and answers and data – to stop and read about how it feels to work in local government. If you need a shortcut to these types of posts, the Morning Buzz feed is a great place to start.

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend and I bet you will too. Here are some recent posts from our ELGL Morning Buzzers:

People are opening up and writing about what it feels like to work in public service right now. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it’s pretty bleak. But as writer Jessica Chernich reminded us on Twitter:

Stars are just like us - Really funny pictures collection on picshag.com

ELGL strives to support our members when things are not OK, is to create a space that is safe to share those observations, and to find other people who can relate.

There’s a reason that US Weekly’s “Stars… They’re Just Like Us!” is so popular: people want to relate to each other, to find that common thread that reminds us that we’re all in this together, or that we’re not alone during hard times.

As Jessica points out, the ability to be vulnerable and talk about the hard stuff – to talk about feelings – is often something we’ve been socialized to hold back and not share, in case it makes us look weak or like we can’t handle the tough times.

My goal, as we head into month 21 of a global pandemic, is to make sure that ELGL is a space where people know they can be themselves and share their stories. Sometimes storytelling about the work we do can be therapeutic just in getting the information off of our chest.

Being relatable will help someone else who is going through something similar. If you are interested in joining ELGL’s writing team, please email me and we can get you connected in 2022. And as always, we are happy to publish anonymous posts and questions if that’s more helpful in your career right now.

ELGL will continue to reinforce and amplify that local governments must take care of our current employees and think about how today is affecting our workforce tomorrow. We have talented and amazing people who are leaving the local government profession because they’re burnt out and exhausted. Because they’re tired of being yelled at and stressed out all the time. This recent UNC MPA graduate student report about local government turnover during COVID-19 has so many quotes about how hard it is right now to work in service, it’s almost hard to read.

Here are some recent Morning Buzz posts with another core theme that is likely obvious to you:

We must also think about what this is doing to future talent that we hope to attract to work in local government. A core theme that weaves through the above six posts is finding ways to help employees get through this time without burning them out and also finding that silver lining of building a workplace culture that nurtures and keeps talent.

“Attracting the next generation to local government” isn’t a perfunctory exercise that can be solved with one program or one conference session. It’s a long haul, heavy load commitment to building out workplace cultures and practices that are centered around the whole employee, with special attention given to the additional challenges of working in public service.

On Monday, December 6, 2021 we will start posting the 2021 Top 100 Local Government Influencers list. Why do we do this? One of ELGL’s strategic goals as an organization is to find the joy in local government, and we do this is by recognizing the incredible people who work for towns, cities, counties, and districts. We know that influence isn’t based on longevity or job title – anyone can make a difference when they work for local government.

We also want to take time in December to reflect on the year and the great work that people have done in their communities. Too often, we forget to recognize or say “thanks” to the people who make our communities run. Lifting up and celebrating local government is key if we are to attract – and keep – people working for local government.

The List is based on an individual’s influence in their community and outside their community through professional associations, mentoring, and writing. Most importantly, everyone on the list was nominated by a friend or peer who thinks they’re doing amazing work.

As we think about the stories we’ve heard from fellow ELGL members this year, or as we read their reflections on this site, I am hopeful that we can begin to weave the joy and celebration back into our workplace culture, to remind ourselves and future employees that local government is the best place to make a difference in the world.

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