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Podcast: Trends in Human Resources with Kylie Bayer, McMinnville, OR

Posted on January 10, 2020


Kylie Bayer GovLove

Kylie Bayer
Human Resources Manager
City of McMinnville, Oregon
LinkedIn | Twitter


Human Resources as a strategic partner. Kylie Bayer, the Human Resources Manager for the City of McMinnville, Oregon, joined the podcast to share the issues and trends that she sees affecting the human resources industry in local government. From pay equity to sabbaticals, and why City Managers should bring HR to the executive leadership team. Kylie also gave a preview of #ELGL20, ELGL’s Annual Conference in Portland this May.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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Episode Transcript

 

Kirsten Wyatt

Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government. GovLove is produced by ELGL, The Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co-founder and executive director and today, Kylie Bayer, the HR director in McMinnville, Oregon is in my kitchen and we are recording together a special episode all about HR and ElGL 20. Kylie, welcome back to GovLove. Thank you. So we’re going to talk about some of the trending issues that Kylie’s seeing and her role as an HR director and also get a sneak peek at ElGL 20, ELGL’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon on May 13, through 15th 2020. But first let’s get started with a lightning round. What is your most controversial nonpolitical opinion?

Kylie Bayer

Well, if you follow me on Twitter, you would know that I think that ice coffee is way better than hot coffee. Is your drinking microwaved hot coffee right now which is super gross. [Laughter] But ice coffee is better than hot coffee and I like to put coconut Lacroix in my iced coffee to make it bubbly and coconutty and it’s something that everybody should try.

Kirsten Wyatt

I’m not beyond trying it but it just sounds really gross.

Kylie Bayer

Just try it.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay, I will. I will. All right ranking order of what you most believe in to what you least believe in from ghosts, alien, or Bigfoot.

Kylie Bayer

Oh, okay. So I hundred percent believe in ghosts and hundred percent want to be one when I am dead

Kirsten Wyatt

What kind of ghost would you be?

Kylie Bayer

I don’t know like, I would like mess with you and mess with like literally you. [Laughter] No, I believe in ghosts because I think my grandma haunts me in a good way,

Kirsten Wyatt

Like how so?

Kylie Bayer

So my grandma had a song called “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” and she used to sing it. And in her kitchen while drinking Gin Martini which she had to stop drinking after a while. [Laughter] But I hear that song constantly and when I hear it sometimes lights flicker.

Kirsten Wyatt

What!!!

Kylie Bayer

And I think that she’s a ghost and she’s like, hey, hanging out just visiting you.

Kirsten Wyatt

So she’s not messing with you?

Kylie Bayer

No, it’s like a nice thing. Yeah, so I totally believe in ghosts. Good ghosts, not scary ones. I think the next thing I would believe in is aliens just because we don’t know. And I saw a tweet that said there’s invisible aliens already here on Earth, yesterday.

Kirsten Wyatt

Really?

Kylie Bayer

Yeah.

Kirsten Wyatt

Was it from a reputable source? [Laughter]

Kylie Bayer

Probably not. But I hundred percent was like I can see that happening. And then I think the thing I least believe in is Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch. And but I still kind of believe in that too. I don’t know.

Kirsten Wyatt

You know, here in Westland where we’re sitting there was actually a Bigfoot sighting at one of our parks down along the river.

Kylie Bayer

Really?

Kirsten Wyatt

Yeah. So, it could be in our backyard. [Laughter]

Kylie Bayer

It’s just your dog, Michael Jordan. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

And so what is your main pet peeve?

Kylie Bayer

So I thought about this a little bit. I have a pet peeve about when you’re at the gym, and it’s January and everybody’s back at the gym. And I get really frustrated about two different things there. I get frustrated when whoever’s running the gym plays really bad music.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so your definition of bad is?

Kylie Bayer

The gym I go to, they play Elvis Presley sometimes and it is ridiculous. And the guy that runs the gym is really, really sweet and nice and he thinks people like that and no one does. So you have to bring your headphones but it drives me crazy.  And if you forget your headphones, then you have to listen to that. And then at the gym when people don’t rerack their stuff and don’t wipe their machines down is really super gross. Yeah, people don’t do that.

Kirsten Wyatt

I think those are valid pet peeves

Kylie Bayer

Clean up after yourself when you work out.

Kirsten Wyatt

There you go. Alright, so let’s talk about your work. And and by way of introduction, many people may know you from Twitter, your Twitter handle is the bacon diaries. Give us the backstory on bacon diaries.

Kylie Bayer

And so like, I don’t know, like nine years ago or something I don’t even know how long I’ve been on Twitter. My husband and I were part of the whole really annoying CrossFit, sorry, I know you do that, and Paleo diet. And so when we started doing that we were both on Twitter and I was like, Oh, I should do something about bacon because that’s what everybody eats when they’re on the Paleo diet. Again, they think it’s healthy, but it’s probably really not when you have it like by the pound every day. And so I just like made that up and then it stuck. And then I started tweeting more as I got more involved in local government. And now it’s like, it’s my brand and i can’t get rid of it. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

All right. So tell us about your path to HR, how did you get to your current position?

Kylie Bayer

So I have worked in public sector my whole life. I started when I was like 16, teaching swimming lessons in the park district at the Tualatin Hills Park and Rec district in Beaverton, Oregon. And when I was there, I did program stuff and I really liked that I used to work for their Tennis Center, but I never played tennis. I also graduated from college, I thought I was going to be a teacher. I went to Western Oregon and I was like all about it. And I student taught and was like, not about it. [Laughter] And my dad was like, you need to get a job. And so I got a job back there working in their communications department. And I really loved it. And I did external communications. And I worked on our scholarship program, and I worked with public engagement and community outreach, and I absolutely loved it. And then I realized that doing all that outreach, and public engagement was bringing a lot of diverse faces and new people to our organization. And our employment base did not reflect that at all. And so I made a shift to go to work in HR so that I could have an impact there. And my focus when I started in HR, there was to do like workforce diversification, and then due to department changes and organizational needs, I also just worked as an HR generalist, and I really liked it. And I just sort of fell into HR, I think like people fall into government. And I don’t know if anybody who goes to school and they’re like, I want to be an HR manager, [laughter] because, like, to be honest, most HR managers are like, the old lady’s name is Cheryl, stuff like that. [Laughter] And it’s just not something people, I think, think about as a career option. So I’m trying to also sort of change that right, a little bit. But so it was kind of by happenstance, I ended up in HR.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and I have to say that I feel like your involvement with ELGL when you were with the park district, really helped us up our game when it came to engaging with districts. And I think, you know, in this future year or you know, this upcoming year, one thing we want to do is continue to create opportunities to learn from special districts, but I really feel like you kind of kicked that off for us. Getting us more involved with not only the district that you work in, but district Association here in Oregon. So I’m really happy about that. And I’ve tried really consciously to describe ELGL as a place for people that work for towns, cities, counties and districts, specifically because of the work that happens at that level.

Kylie Bayer

That’s cool.

Kirsten Wyatt

Yeah, it is cool. So let’s talk about the best part of your job. If someone’s listening to this, and they’re thinking, maybe I do want to grow up and become an HR Manager someday, what would be…

Kylie Bayer

Maybe their name is Cheryl, or Janet. [Laughter] Sorry Cheryl’s and Janet’s. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

What is the best thing that you get to do and why do you love your job?

Kylie Bayer

I love working in HR, because my job is very different every single day. So employees are unpredictable and you never know what you’re going to walk into. So you know, I plan my days and weeks out. I know I have specific projects to work on. You know, things that happened cyclically, we have like labor negotiations, we have policy updates, we have recruitments that happen. But then like, somebody shows up at work drunk, and you have to deal with it. Like, that’s what HR gets to do. Yeah. And so you just never know what you’re gonna walk into. And, it’s unique every day. And the other reason I really like it is because you can work with people and you get to help people. And I think HR has the perception that you know, it’s like the internal Police Department of your organization. And we’re all like rule followers. And don’t get me wrong. There are totally some people in HR that do that. And there’s a lot of really good things about compliance and not breaking rules and breaking laws, but it’s really also about helping people and helping your employees be successful in the organization and helping the organization be successful.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well and it’s such a point of entry for the culture in an organization and if people want to stay in that organization. And if you build out systems that yes are going to regulate what needed, but then also celebrate and keep people there, which I think is important as well. So let’s talk about some of the topics that you’re seeing now on the HR landscape, and how that might affect local governments nationwide.

Kylie Bayer

And so I gave it some thought, and I made a list in my Trello app. So if you want to learn how to use Trello, come to ELGL 20, May 13 -16.

Kirsten Wyatt

What if you’re like me and Trillo makes you have like severe anxiety?

Kylie Bayer

It used to give me anxiety, but then I just figured it out. So just figure it out.

Kirsten Wyatt

So you’re saying I’m not smart enough. [Laughter]

Kylie Bayer

I didn’t know how to do it. And now I’ve like I’ve got my boards all set up. And yeah, I’ll show you when this is done. So I made a little list of some things I’m thinking about and more like some trends that I am predicting for 2020. So let me just go to my list here. And one thing I think that governments should be thinking about, specifically with HR is how can we engage or maybe not engage or not support, but get along with better the gig economy. And, the reason I’m thinking about that is, there’s a lot of people that don’t have the capacity themselves to work an eight to five. Or 40 hour week or in like a lot of our cases, 50-60 hour weeks, but they might be able to work 15 and if you think about restructuring some of your positions so that they are attractive to people who can work those kinds of schedules, maybe you pull out projects or you pull out you know, really specific areas of a job, you might be able to find some great talent that can help you do those things. And I know the City of Tigard has some positions that are like 32 hours a week or 20 hours a week. And they’re not like your everyday part time job that you might find in Park and Rec, or Public Work. But they are, you know, positions where you might focus on file management or record management. Or you might focus in on recruitment really specifically, and you get hired to do one thing. So I think that’s something we could be thinking about, and just kind of rethink how we structure our jobs and the work that we need to have done.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and it seems like there’s an element to that where you also have to plan for how does that affect your workplace culture? And, you know, are these people showing up and just doing a job and then leaving or are you finding ways to engage them with the rest of staff? And I’m sure you’ve thought through some of that, you know, any advice or tips if someone’s hearing this and saying yes, I want do that in my organization.

Kylie Bayer

Um, some of that you know, I think that engaging with your team and engaging within like a department or even in just your building, right? You have to be very conscious about how you do that. And I don’t know if I’m great at that in McMinnville right now. But you’ve got to find ways to make people feel like they are welcome and they’re part of the team. And a lot of that is like a lot of basic stuff. It’s just like breeding people every day and checking in with them and having face to face conversations, that kind of thing. But you know, there also isn’t a bad thing about somebody coming in and getting a lot of good stuff done and then like saying peace out and on to the next. And you can get a lot of great work done that way.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, I think technology tools make it easier for these scenarios to I mean, even something like Slack, or even something as basic as email and just really like kind of driving home that this is how we’re going to communicate. You know, again, like the Janet’s and Cheryl’s may not love those ideas, but if we’re shifting to, you know, supporting the gig economy, it’s something that I think people that are looking for that would have the aptitude for.

Kylie Bayer

Well, that’s something I kind of thought about, and this sort of segway’s into a different thing. But local government is getting more involved with tech. And we’re relying more on, like the software as a service, those kinds of things. But HR seems to have not jumped into that yet within government. HR in the private sector, is pretty darn good at it. There’s really robust HRIS systems that help HR do their jobs well. But in government, a lot of us are still just tracking stuff on spreadsheets, and it’s a lot of time and labor intensive data management.

Kirsten Wyatt

Why is that? I mean, is it a cost thing or is it not prioritizing an HRIS system over something else?

Kylie Bayer

I think it’s both and I wonder that in McMinnville and I love McMinnville, like everybody should come to McMinnville and hang out because it’s really cool. We’re in wine country. It’s like the best. But we didn’t have an HR department ever until I was hired last August in 2018, two August’s ago in 2018. And because they didn’t focus in on HR, it wasn’t a priority to them. And they didn’t invest in any technology there. So we just now got Neoga as an applicant tracking system. That’s pretty standard in most places now. Maybe not in some of the smaller places where you don’t need to have this robust tracking system for that, but it’s pretty standard. And I think it just, it wasn’t a priority. But this stuff does cost money and, a lot of software, especially a software as a service, you’re paying an annual subscription fee. So it’s an ongoing cost, whether you do that and whether you have your software or you have something that you’re managing in house and you have to budget for your maintenance on it. It’s all a cost and it’s not going to just go away. It’s not a one-time cost. But I don’t know if also HR has not been at the table in the budgeting process to advocate for these things. And if that’s by their choice, or if it’s by way of the organization just kind of not engaging with HR as much. But I say this a lot, and a lot of people know this, your people costs are your highest costs. And if you’re not managing that really well, you’re wasting money. But everything’s about prioritizing, so you have to figure that out.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and that reminds me of, you know, conversations that you and I have had several times about really making HR a part of the strategic team in a city and not having them just be focused on admin tasks. And you know, to call out your boss, Jeff Towery, who is a great guy, but unfortunately, roots for the wrong football team. I know that someday I think we’ll all be rooting against Jeff and our ELGL ….friends. But, you know, he came into this position as City Manager and then created an HR department. So talk about, you know, that kind of more strategic focus on HR, and advice you might give to city managers who are as innovative and focused as Jeff at bringing their organization up to speed when it comes to that. Any advice you might give?

Kylie Bayer

I think you kind of nailed it that it’s having the insight that HR is a strategic partner. And so the way that we’re structured is, I’m technically titled HR Manager because I’m a department of one. I’m basically managing myself and what I do. [ Laughter] But I’m still at the table with the executive team.  And at that table, we’re all at the same level. No one is above anybody else. And I think that that says a lot that HR was there. There’s a lot of places where the HR director isn’t in those discussions. And really anything that happens in that executive team meeting has an impact on your staff and it’s really helpful to have that insight with an HR professional there. So if you are trying to engage better with HR, they need to be in your management team. And they need to be engaging at that level very frequently. And we’ve just talked about this a little bit ago, but it’s hard to do that if you’ve got a lot of really basic admin stuff to do. So you either need to find the tools to do that or build the department, so you’ve got people that can do that. And then, you know, there’s going to be the strategic folks that can work on that kind of stuff.

Kirsten Wyatt

And what are some the other topics that you think are going to be trending in 2020?

Kylie Bayer

Unemployment is going to stay low. I think it’s been low for a while. When unemployment is low, it is hard to find talent. And people that are out on the job market know that they rely on their networks to find a job. So we make all these fancy ads and we get these things mailed to us. They look really glossy and nice. You’re going to get more applicants if you shoulder tap people. So people that are looking for jobs are relying on their networks to help them find them. But as recruiters, and really everybody’s a recruiter. And get involved in those networks too, and encourage people to apply for jobs. We are probably going to have a new position at the city. I’ve already got a shortlist of people on my phone, who I’m going to be calling when we get that posted and say you would be a good candidate you need to apply for this. There used to be I think people were nervous about doing that. It felt like you were promising someone a job. As long as you don’t say like, hey, you’re gonna get the job, then you’re probably gonna be fine. [Laughter] So don’t promise a job. But tell them they would be a good candidate.

Kirsten Wyatt

No, but I think that’s a great point. And I think that has been a fear. But I’ve always looked at it as like a way to compliment somebody that you really respect them like, and, you know, even from, you know, where I said, and you know, when you have a position open like that, like, I try to take a couple minutes, and it really doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to email people who might be good. And if they don’t want to leave their current job, it’s not like they’re going to be like, oh no, she said, I would be good at this job I have to apply. They just say like, no, thank you. Like, it’s not that big of a deal. And if anything, it just makes your network know you’re thinking about them. You recognize their talents, like it’s kind of a no brainer, but it’s something. And maybe it’s just a change in attitude or, you know, in a generation that you know, kind of wants to lift each other up and doesn’t look at all of this as a competition as much or something like that. I don’t know what the right answer is.

Kylie Bayer

Yeah. Go poach people. [ Laughter] Everybody is already happily employed. Oh you have to feel people. And there’s people that again in government get weird about that. And it’s like territorial, like don’t touch my people. But I come from a philosophy that if somebody wants to move on it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unhappy where they are. It might mean they’re just ready for a growth opportunity. And it’s totally okay to snatch those people and take them.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and then again, I just think it’s also a way to compliment your peers to show people that you recognize their good work. And if they don’t want to apply, they won’t. And if they do, they’re going to be happy that you gave them that little nudge. All right, what else?

Kylie Bayer

I’ve got, let’s see… local government sabbaticals. I’ve been like wanting to do this for ever because I love vacation. [Laughter] But I think it’s something that government has not jumped on board with, but corporations and businesses are doing that. And they’ve done it for a long time. And you don’t need to be Nike and you don’t need to be Intel to do a program like this. But people get burnt out. And you get burnt out in government because it’s a tough job. You know, you’re dealing with constrained resources, you have elected leadership that turns over constantly, you’ve got members of the public who might not be thrilled with what you’re doing all the time. And they come tell you that they’re caring very loudly in your meetings, and that can really suck and, so people need time to refresh and recharge. And there’s a lot of ways to consider a program like this from a traditional like, you get six to eight weeks off after 10 or 15 years of work. Or I think the city of Eugene used to do this. They would loan you out and you go work for a nonprofit and you get to refresh your skills and just do something that feels really positive in the community. And you come back and you’re feeling a lot better. While those folks are gone, it’s an opportunity to work on your succession planning and give people an opportunity to step into those roles. Whether it’s a leadership role on your executive team or a supervisory role, or even just a more technical position. Give people a chance to build those skills, build their own resumes. And then when the person is back after whatever number of weeks they’re gone, you know, it’s a win, win win. That’s a good thing.  Organizations just have to have the capacity to do that. So if your budgets are tight, and you’re not staffed up, it’s going to be really challenging. But I think it’s something we should be thinking about.

Kirsten Wyatt

You know, when both times I went on maternity leave, the first time it was more laid back but the second time, you know, had asked another staff member to step into my role while I was gone and learn those skills. And I mean, maternity leave is not big, but it is a chunk of time when you’re out. And I was always really proud of the idea that we were able to build the skills of someone while I was, you know, at home with the baby. And then, but I could see again, the value of a sabbatical for your own wellness and mental health. And also using that time for the succession plan is powerful.

Kylie Bayer

It’s also a good retention tool. You know, I think in government… we talk about this at ELGL a lot, you know, we want people to love their jobs so much, and it’s okay to have people that are just working for a goal. You know, when I left the park district, I had thought, I’m gonna miss all my friends. There’s like two people I still talk to. You move on. It happens. It’s not a big deal. So if you’re working for a goal, and that’s your goal, that is okay. My aunt is I think, working toward her third or fourth sabbatical at Intel. She’s not in love with her job all the time. But like it keeps you going, and it keeps you productive. And it’s a good retention tool. So I think it’s something that we should think about in public sector. And another thing I’ve been thinking about is pay equity because Oregon has pay equity law, which I think everywhere is going to have one soon. And it’s so important to get ahead of the curve on that. And you know, if your state doesn’t have a pay equity law, or if you do and you just haven’t done your analysis stuff yet, like get on that and really figure out if you’ve got inequities in your organization, and fix them now before you have penalties related to a law. So in Oregon, if you haven’t done that yet, and you find inequities, you’ve got some back pay that you need to handle now because it was implemented last year. However, if you’re in a state that doesn’t have this, it just gives you an opportunity to correct the record now to build that internal equity and it actually helps you a lot in your recruitment because you know what you can offer somebody else and you’re not getting kind of swayed by like, ooh, this shiny new person. It’ll give you kind of a matrix of what you can offer somebody based on their skills and experience. So you don’t throw your whole equilibrium out of whack.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and I’ve always wondered if public sector is better, in that everything is public. And so like yes, is your you know, Planner I coming in and getting the salary as well other Planner was? I mean, they could. And so, is government a little bit ahead of the times because of that built in transparency?

Kylie Bayer

I think. So in Oregon, our pay equity law has kind of rolled into effect with new provisions every year. But in doing this, every like HR seminar that I go to, or conference, it is the private sector employers that are like, Oh my god, I don’t know how I’m gonna handle this. And all of us in public sector with our neat little salary tables are like, nah, we are not too worried. So I’m not really worried. But there are things when people come in…. a lot of times it’s at your executive management level. And people negotiate differently at that level. Men negotiate more. Just as a rule that happens and so when you’ve got those kinds of things, you can still open yourself up to some risk there. We are in the middle of a classification compensation study at McMinnville and these projects suck. They are huge, [ laughter] emotional, people tie their job title and their salary to their worth as a human. In HR we tend to be like yeah you are a budget analyst. That’s what you do and we love you for it but like work is work. So I try to watch how I talk about this but you know, we’re in the in the middle of this whole project and we’re realizing that we probably have some positions on one salary band that should be on a different salary band. And that’s where our inequities are going to happen. We wouldn’t have known that if we didn’t go through this big project. So if you haven’t done a class and comp study, ever, or it’s been years, [laughter] go do one. They are really important, even though they’re daunting, and people will retire where they have to do, but just farm it out, have somebody do it for you. Get it done.

Kirsten Wyatt

Anything else trending?

Kylie Bayer

One little last thing that I’ve got written down to talk about at the best conference in the world. [Laughter] And I’ve noticed this, and at first I thought it was just me noticing it, but then I went to an HR directors meeting last month with other HR directors in Oregon. And notice that that’s happening in other places, too. So the silver tsunami that we’ve talked about, when people start retiring these people, institutional knowledge, longtime employees usually in like a leadership role, that happens in your city or your county or district, but it happens in your labor union. And when you then have to go through bargaining, or you have to go through, you know, an icky termination process or a couple grievances, and you’ve got new faces in those union leadership roles or as a union rep, it’s going to be like, really challenging. And we’re in that right now and making them go. We’ve been in negotiations since April with one of our unions and should have been done in June and we’re working on an old contract. It’s really frustrating. But we’ve got new faces at the table and it just takes some time to build the relationships for them to get up to speed. You know, honestly, for us to get the speed too,. I’m new to some of this. So, that change and turnover in staff is going to impact your labor relations also.

Kirsten Wyatt

I mean, is there something you can do with note-taking or recording? So you know, for your next negotiation you have new faces again, you know, you can be like oh yeah, we did talk about you know, uniform you know, allotment or something last time and that was something that you you know gave up because you wanted this. I mean how do you capture that or do you just accept that you’re going to start fresh every time you have new faces at the table?

Kylie Bayer

So we’ve done a decent job in McMinnville, of taking notes. We have two unions, we have a police union, a fire union and our chiefs have done a nice job. But they’ve got a lot of historical knowledge because we’ve engaged in bargaining. I’ve really relied on our chiefs to bring me up to speed on stuff. What I’ve noticed is it’s like you’re starting fresh. So even if we say we talked about this, where I have notes that say this conversation happened three years ago. None of us were there three years ago. And it’s a new thing. So and so it feels like we’re starting over a lot. Which isn’t a bad thing. But those minutes, but it does mean that you are reliving conversations that happened three years ago. Yeah, it can be challenging. But I think the advice there I’ve had to give myself, is just to be patient. And, you know, one way or another, you’re going to get to a contract. So just get ready for it to be long ago and make you tired. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

Al right, so let’s shift gears and talk about ELGL 20. You stepped up as our conference organizer for the 2020 conference. How’s it going so far?

Kylie Bayer

I think it’s going great. I’m so excited. We have a spreadsheet that’s been going around to our larger Planning Committee, where we are starting to finalize our speakers. And I just feel like we’ve got good solid content coming to our attendees. And that’s the most important thing for me at a conference is content and that you walk away learning something. And I think that we’re going to have that happen this year.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and what I’ve loved about that spreadsheet is, you have made us become kind of really focused on ensuring that all of the sessions that we’re planning, hit the different topics that our members care about. So I don’t think we’re leaning too heavy in any one job functional area, but there’s something for everybody. And I think that that aligns with our mission to, you know, be an organization that lets you learn about a lot of different local government topics and doesn’t pigeonhole you.

Kylie Bayer

I love it. And I really like that we’ve got our tracks. We did that in Durham, and I felt like that was really, really helpful. For me in justifying going to that conference, well, like, another shout out to Jeff Towery doesn’t need a lot of justification because he’s a big fan of ELGL. But it was helpful for me because I knew there were things specifically related to what I do. And that’s how I chose my session. And this year, our tracks are happiness, which I like, equity and efficiency. And within those tracks, we’ve got topics in a variety of areas of local government, it’s just to me super cool.

Kirsten Wyatt

I agree. And I think, you know, one thing we’ve talked about a lot is this idea of how do you leave a conference and know that all of the great things, all that enthusiasm, how do you make sure that you take some of that with you? And I feel like some of the things we’re going to set up within each session to record what we learned, record what we didn’t learn a lot more information on is going to be powerful as well to kind of address that because I feel like that’s something you and I talked about after Durham, because that’s what happens with big inspirational conferences.

Kylie Bayer

Yeah, you need a way to keep the momentum going. But also, it’s just it’s so nice when a conference is done, or really any kind of training is done, and you’ve got this like playbook of what happened and what you learn.  And it’s not just like your Instagram stories. [Laughter] I think we’ve got some really, really cool things coming to our attendees. I’m really excited about our keynotes. Yes, like, so excited, and we’re touching on so many cool topics. We’ve got like some strategic planning things, a lot of, not a lot, but like some things related to academics, and I know, all of our nerdy ELGL people [laughter], a lot of us have an MPA like we still get down on the research. Yeah, so I love that we’re bringing that to the table. We’re hitting on equity, inclusion like, these are going to be really cool keynotes. I’m so pumped. So pumped.

Kirsten Wyatt

What are some of the other special things or ways that we are engaging our attendees in ways different than your traditional conference?

Kylie Bayer

Uh, let me think, the connector? And yeah. So one thing I noticed and these we saw this feedback comes through after Durham and maybe after some other conferences too. And this is a good reminder for me because if you hang out with me in a conference, you know that I go ball to the wall, and I don’t sleep, and I’m out all night, and I’m at every session all day, and then I go home and I get super sick. [Laughter] I feel like I’m gonna die but like, I just have so much fun. And this happens at ELGL I think because a lot of these people are my friends and then when I see them, it’s like, you just want to hang out nonstop and when you realize like you’re really tired and you probably gonna get bronchitis. [Laughter] So not everybody likes to do that.

Kirsten Wyatt

And like your describing that probably made some listeners be like, oh. And so like Kylie’s life doesn’t have to be yours.

Kylie Bayer

It doesn’t have to be. Like me in Nashville and if I see a conference like you don’t need to go to every Honky Tonk, but I did. And it was great. So what we’re doing instead of not instead, but in conjunction with is having these really cool connector events on Thursday night. And so there’s a lot of options for people based on what they might want to do. So we totally are going to have like a rockin karaoke party and I might be at that but we’re also going to have things like a DIY craft bar which is like super cool. So if you want to take a little homemade handicraft back with you from Portland because we are a really crafty weird city, you can do that. We’re going to be doing a tour, a guided tour of palace books, which is like, such a cool spot in Portland and if you are a little bookworm, and you do not want to get wild, this is such a great option for you. And I talk about Oregon’s wine country all the time because I love it, I work there. But we are going to be showcasing Oregon wine in a really awesome wine tasting. And we are going to learn how to taste wine, you’re gonna learn about Oregon wines and learn about that industry a little bit. So, just some really cool things to do. And they’re not all, you know, ragers.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and I think for me, you know, not everybody likes the traditional cocktail party or cocktail mixer. And so you know, when the day ends on Thursday, we’ll have a chance for you to, you know, grab a drink and some snacks at the conference facility. And then you’ll head out to these events. And when you register for ELGL, we’re going to ask you to select which one you want to attend. And so be ready for that on registration. And we’ll have information about each one on the website and then on the registration form itself too.

Kylie Bayer

I think it’s gonna be really exciting. There’s so many cool things to do in Portland and I’m really pumped about that. Like I love Portland. I’ve lived here my whole life. A lot of people transplanted to Portland. But I’m a lifer, and Southeast Portland where our conferences is, is like quintessential Portland. It is gritty. It has hurt. It is like Portland, more old school Portland. It’s just super cool. There’s so many neat things to do. And I’m really excited that we’re helping our out of towners or our local people find something different to do and see the city. Very cool.

Kirsten Wyatt

And then share with us. We have basically the whole hotel booked a really cool space in Portland. Tell us more about that.

Kylie Bayer

At the Jupiter? I love the Jupiter hotel. So the Jupiter hotel is a very cool Portland hotel spot. We have hotels also booked some other places. So this is not the only place you need to stay. But I would encourage you to stay because it’s right next door the Doug Fir Lounge, which is a really sweet music venue and we’ve got a good music scene in Portland and it’s also right in the Lower East Side which is right by really great restaurants. Portland is known sorry for its strip clubs. [Laughter] And there’s a bunch of that nearby but not in a creepy seedy way.

Kirsten Wyatt

That is not on the ELGL agenda.

Kylie Bayer

Not on the agenda.

Kirsten Wyatt

Not official. [Laughter]

Kylie Bayer

It’s by all this like really cool, funky, weird, and Portland is very weird place, by all this kind of stuff. So you are right in the heart of it. It’s called the Jupiter hotel. I haven’t been out there in a couple of years. Last time I was out there like they still have like some funky old like AstroTurf for their grass. It’s like it’s very funky, modern, all the rooms are super cool. It’s a blast.

Kirsten Wyatt

Yeah, we negotiated a special rate and again, our emphasis is always to make ELGL conferences affordable. And so it’s a great hotel. And it’s very affordable for your professional development travel budget. And then share with us some more about getting out of the conference hall and kind of seeing more about local governments seen in Portland on Friday of the conference.

Kylie Bayer

So we’re probably gonna get the giggles because these experiential learning opportunities, I’ve been calling them learning on the move, [laughter] which is so stupid [laughter]. But I love it and I think it is really cool. So we’re going to have some options on Friday afternoon. And we did this in Durham, there were some tours that you could take. And the feedback that we heard was, it was hard to justify going to these tours because it felt like it was just a fun thing to do. We’re trying to make sure that there are really educational opportunities with all these things on Friday. So for example, one of the things we’re going to do, it’s called the Four T loop hike. So you can take a take a hike with some people from Portland Park and Rec. And that loop involves taking our trolley or tram or train and our trail and it’s very cool. You’ll learn about parking rec, you’ll learn about transportation, and it’s going to be guided so you don’t have to worry about like trying to figure it out on your own. It’s gonna be awesome. We also are going to be over at the port of Portland and I just want to give a plug to the Portland airport because when you all come to Portland, you are going to realize that is the best airport in the world. Porter Portland’s right there. So you’re gonna learn a lot about what they get to do, and how involved they are in our economy here in our city and in our state. We’re also gonna be looking to work with Metro and Metro is really cool. It’s like one of the regional governments, it’s one of the only governments of its kind and it oversees a lot of things related to public lands, also oversees our cemeteries which is kind of neat, there’s just a lot of neat things about it. So you can engage with that. But we just have a bunch of cool things for people to do on Friday afternoon and I’m really excited about it.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and I think all of the tours relate to something that really is better taught, when you are hearing about it and seeing it from the people who work there. And yes, we could just extend the conference day and invite those people in to talk about their work but experiencing it I think makes it more real and you can kind of see how it might relate to your job back at home. And then we have two summits planned this year, and we call anything that we do that is kind of a deeper dive at our conferences, a summit and last year, we offered one Innovation Summit and this year, we’re going to continue that work, thanks to Josh Edwards with the City and County of Athens, Georgia. And then we’re also doing a session on creative place making with our friends from Civic Arts and Arts Place, America. That’s in a different part of town. It’s up at the white stag building. So tell us more about what people can expect on that Wednesday.

Kylie Bayer

 So that’s one thing I really enjoyed about the last ELGL conference is, you know, you have your Thursday, Friday sessions, and you know, they’re an hour, maybe two hours. You are getting a lot. We’ve said this a lot before. It’s like drinking from a fire hose, there’s so much content. But it’s nice to get to do a deep dive. And so these deep dives, specifically on the innovation one, you know, we did this last year, we’re going to revisit that and see what we’ve learned throughout the year, we’ve had innovation cohorts going on with ELGL. So it’s a chance to learn more about how that’s gone, what people have learned.

Kirsten Wyatt

And those cohort members will be at the conference to share what they’ve done which I think is really powerful and bring it full circle.

Kylie Bayer

So that’s going to be awesome and the creative place making and I might ask you more about this one because you’ve been more involved in the planning on it, but, you know, public art and, making places, is something I think we haven’t really touched on at ELGL a whole lot. And it’s really what makes our communities feel like home for people. So this is a chance to really get into that.

Kirsten Wyatt

And, you know, this is kind of a sneak preview of the big announcement that is coming in a couple of weeks. But, the summit on creative place making is part of a renewed focus for ELGL on how communities can use arts and culture on everything from infrastructure projects to community engagement. You know how do you find the most creative ways to connect with your community members. So we are excited about that. And we’ll be bringing in some experts in that field as well. Anything else you want to share about ELGL 20?

Kylie Bayer

I think I just want to share that I absolutely love Portland, and I think that all of our attendees are going to love it too. I’m so excited that we get to showcase our city in a way that doesn’t always happen at conferences. Portland’s not a…. it’s not been a great conference city. We had a huge Convention Center, but you know, it’s hard to get people here. But when you are here, Portland is really cool. And I think people are going to be, you’re going to fall in love with it. I’m hoping we’ll have good weather. And it’s awful right now, but in May we we can get some really beautiful days. So I would encourage people to maybe try to plan a couple extra days to hang around Portland. Go check out other parts of Oregon. We are close to the coast, we are close to the mountains, and we’re close to wine country. So there’s so many things you can do while you’re here. So make a little vacation about it.

Kirsten Wyatt

I love it. Okay, so last question. If you could be the GovLove DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?

Kylie Bayer

Oh, we’re gonna come full circle because thinking about my ghosty grandma [laughter], I wouldn’t pick “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies.

Kirsten Wyatt

I love it. And I’m really glad that we ended this episode talking about your ghost grandma again. [Laughter]

Kylie Bayer

And I’m also glad we didn’t giggle uncontrollably. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

So this ends our episode for today. I want to thank you for coming to my house to talk to me. I really appreciate it. And GovLove is produced by a rotating cast of awesome ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We are a social startup with the mission of engaging the brightest minds in local government. ELGL 20 registration opens on January 15, and the early bird registration price of $315 which is chock full of learning and local government experiences is available until February 15. So sign up to attend today and we hope to see you there. For our listeners, you can reach us at ELGL.org/Gov love or on Twitter at GovLove podcast. If you have a story for GovLove, we want to hear it. Send us a message on Twitter or email [email protected] Thank you for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.

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