I started working in local government when…I accepted a position with the City of SeaTac, WA as a City Management Intern. I was trying to find an opportunity to work in local government and many cities have limited their entry-level management positions (management analyst, assistant to, etc.). The Washington City/County Management Association (WCMA) had provided me with a mentor city manager who also happened to be the City Manager at SeaTac. It was through him that I was able to help with several interesting projects that involved most of the City’s departments. I was able to then network with several other city managers in the region and was eventually recommended for a position with the City of Lakewood as the Assistant to the City Manager, which I’ve had for over a year now.
My friends and family think working in local government means….that I get to do what I’m passionate about and that I have the opportunity to really affect change for residents. I grew up with a father who worked in local government, and while I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do the same, I knew the work that he did was important and helped people. The opportunity to combine helping people and working in government may seem like concepts that are at odds to some. I find what I do rewarding.
My most frustrating experience in local government was….realizing that there is a lack of opportunities for people who are interested in becoming City Managers. There will always be City Attorneys, Finance Directors or Economic Development Directors that have the eventual opportunity to become City Managers in some cities or towns. I feel like there aren’t enough avenues for people who want to be professional managers to come up in the profession through the City Manager’s Department. I went to graduate school with the City Management profession in mind as my career goal. Budget cuts and a lack of focus on the “next generation” of City Managers has left a void for people who want to get into the profession solely to be City Managers. There is a need for more internships, entry-level and midlevel positions for people who want to lead cities.
My top three career accomplishments are…
- I wouldn’t feel nearly as prepared for the position that I’m in had I not gone to graduate school and received my MPA. I believe that the University of Washington Evans School was truly a career accomplishment in that it prepared me for my role in municipal government.
- I have worked at the Federal, State and now the local level of government. These unique experiences have helped me focus on the fact that I want to spend the rest of my career in local government, and I know this because of my experiences at all three levels of government.
- Becoming an Assistant to the City Manager for Lakewood was an accomplishment and an invaluable step toward my goal of becoming a City Manager. There aren’t many positions like this in Washington State, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Lakewood City Manager Department. I’m learning a lot about the profession and have the opportunities to really prepare me for career advancement.
When no one else is in the car, I…..listen to NPR and ESPN.
Right now, I am working on….ensuring that my work plan for 2015 is complete, working on upcoming franchise agreement negotiations with utility providers, preparing to implement a community satisfaction survey in 2015, and supervising a Management Intern who recently received her MPA. There are several things on my plate at any given time. Each day is different and never stale.
Here are three tips for interviewing……
- Know as much about the hiring entity as possible. It goes a long way to be able to show that you are interested and have done your homework ahead of time.
- Eye contact shows that you have confidence. If you spend the entire interview staring at the table then no one will feel strongly about the answers you give because you don’t seem confident in your responses.
- Be personable. This is something that some people come by more naturally than others, but it is learnable through practice. If you seem like a person that others want to work with, it will help your chances of getting the job. On the flip side, if you seem disingenuous or fake, that will be perceived as a negative. Informational interviews are a good place to practice your interview skills and to get honest feedback.
In terms of telling the local government story, I think local government….Has historically relied too much on traditional media sources to be the outlet for information. There are so many avenues for a city to tell its own story and highlight the “wins” that are being achieved. Major/large cities will tend get the headlines and suburban cities will have to struggle to gain positive notoriety. Because there are so many potential stories, and the media is struggling with its business models, the stories that are run may be the type that don’t necessarily shine the brightest light on current events in your town, but rather is aimed at getting as many readers as possible. If the only thing that a reader sees has to do with something negative, then the readers will start to associate negativity with your municipality. Consistent messaging about the positive attributes, projects, and wins that are occurring in your community, on a regular basis, is what local governments should be highlighting. It is a city’s own responsibility to put that message out for your residents.
For the next person that you interview, I would ask….Why are you interested in working in local government?
You should have asked me….What is something new and innovative that your municipality is/has been working on?
My Story Archives
- Cassie Tucker, City of Southlake, TX
- Jim Healy, Village of Richfield, WI
- Matt Monedero, City of Garland, TX
- Justin Tramble, State Bar of Georgia
- Aimee Kane, City of Boulder, CO
- Jessica Beise, City of Victoria, MN
- Emily Vincent, City of Olathe, KS
- Toy Beeninga, City of Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Heidi York, Person County (NC) Manager
- Barack Matite, City of Eudora, KS
- Cathy Wilson, Town of Carrboro, NC
- India Adams, Albemarle County, VA
- Derek Matheson, Kent (WA) Chief Administrative Officer
- Darwin Wade, City of Grand Prairie, TX