The Future of the Local Government Workforce

Posted on January 5, 2015

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ELGL first met Eric Ameigh, City of Boulder (CO) Projects Coordinator at #ELGL14. If you talked with Eric at #ELGL14, you know that he embodies that out-of-the-box, creative ELGL mindset. We’ve asked Eric to highlight his persepctive on the future of the local government workforce. Note: “The Wave” featured in the below Vine was taken at #ELGL14.

A Search Answers

By: Eric AmeighLinkedIn

I was pretty excited when Boulder city manager Jane Brautigam asked me to learn more about ELGL and how City of Boulder staff might benefit from being involved with the organization. I was even more excited when my colleague Joanna Crean and I were selected to attend #ELGL14 in Portland to learn firsthand what the fuss was about.

Reflecting on #ELGL14

10372021_696282843790614_5977782704711381610_nLeading up to #ELGL14, I had a number of questions about ELGL. What is an emerging leader? Is it a young professional? People under 30? 40? Is it generational? A definition that includes only Millennials and maybe the odd Gen-Xer?

I also had a number of questions about the role ELGL could play in the City of Boulder. Could ELGL help recruit new talent to Boulder? Would it signify to others that Boulder is a cool place to work? Could Boulder staff benefit from the development opportunities? But more importantly, I wondered whether a relationship with ELGL would demonstrate a sincere commitment by Boulder to address the changing demographics of the local government workforce.

In reflecting on #ELGL14, it turns out that I learned quite a lot. I learned more about ELGL’s approach to being an “open source”, big-tent organization for all those involved in local government. I learned about Portland’s extraordinary beer scene. I learned about the institution known as Powell’s Books. I learned that ELGL hosts their conference at the coolest repurposed school you will ever find.

An “Aha” Moment

Unfortunately, I am still looking for answers to my original questions about the future of the local government workforce. I’m struggling, at least a little bit, for an adequate description of the shifting local government workforce and how Boulder and other local governments can best address the inevitable influx of new, younger employees. I spent time after #ELGL14 interviewing co-workers and other “emerging leaders” in my state, and that did not help either. It was clear that I was not going to have an “aha” moment. Despite all that, I have come to two conclusions.

Two Takeaways

download (1)The first is that ELGL is a major player in leading and facilitating constructive conversations about issues that are highly relevant to emerging leaders. ELGL takes on explosive social issues, like Ferguson, or tough but challenging opportunities, like social media and new citizen demands for communication and engagement, which will increasingly define the professional experiences of a new generation of local government leaders. It gets in front of potentially disruptive trends in a way that long established organizations struggle to do. And it does all this under its big interdisciplinary tent where emerging leaders can bust the silos of traditional professional associations and learn from each other.

My second conclusion is that local government workers in the first half of their careers are having an experience that is fundamentally different than workers in the second half of their careers. The beginning of a career is full of formative experiences. And so, for those of us who are in it right now, it means something new and different than those who began local governments in 70’s or 80’s.

The Changing Nature of Work

How do we characterize the divide between those in the first half of a career and those in the second half? And what are the reasons for the divide? Some of it can be attributed to different life stages and some of it boils down to experience.

10525998_655919871160245_4883967375150491122_nYounger workers who are single, childless, or raising little kids have different work needs from older workers who are raising teenagers or who are empty-nesters. Younger workers who lack a wealth of experience view life and work differently from their more experienced colleagues. This is obvious right? These things have always been true and always will be. But two other forces are starting to be felt across the world of work–including our work in local government–that will cause the eternally relevant truths to play out differently in the future. They are (1) the emergence of Millennials and (2) the changing nature of work.

As a new member and strong supporter of ELGL, and with the hope that involvement in the organization can help me in my search for answers to my many questions, I plan to explore the impact of both Millennials and the changing nature of work on local government in a series of upcoming articles. I welcome your feedback and encourage you to share your experience with me. There are no right or wrong answers. Each of us is viewing the evolution of our local government workforces through a different lens. The most important thing is that we continue the conversation and continue to understand how local government, as an employer, can become dynamic and creative enough to meet the needs of all of its most critical and talented people.

Supplemental Reading


Ameigh Taking Job In Colorado

The Scene: (Re)Filling the Big Tent | Willamette University

#4 in ’14: Our First Centerfold Appearance

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