The Blogtern: What’s the Hardest Part of Working in Local Government?

Posted on July 2, 2015

In the “Blogtern” series, we continue to hear from interns in local government. Our goal is that you can strength your internship program by hearing from what makes for a meaningful internship experience. 

Hat tip to Doug Barrick, Rutherfordton, NC Town Manager for encouraging Heather Britt’s participation in the Blogtern series.

The Blogtern: What is the hardest part of working in local government?

My name is Heather Britt and I’m an intern with the Town of Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Other than spending my time trying to figure out exactly how to pronounce the name of the town (Rulfton, Ruffton, and Rollerfourton are a few favorites), I’m also a full time graduate student at Western Carolina University seeking my Masters’ of Public Affairs.
imagesI grew up in Lexington, North Carolina, the self-declared “BBQ Capitol of the World”, with my mother, father and older sister. My mother has been a government employee for as long as I can remember, first with the Department of Social Services, and now with the Davidson County Clerk’s Office. My father is a furniture factory worker turned banker, and my sister is an elementary school teacher. I graduated from North Davidson High School in 2010, and enrolled at Western Carolina University. (Go Cats!) I graduated from Western in May of 2014 with a B.S. in Political Science and a B.A. in History.
It was my interest in political science that led me to discovering local government. In the senior year of my undergraduate career, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My (wonderful) professor Dr. Don Livingston suggested I look into local government with our Director of the Local Government Training Program, Vickey Wade (who turned out to be just as wonderful).
Roberson_pictureWith their introduction, I was able to work for Town Manager Paige Roberson at the Town of Sylva. Paige was an inspiration. She was always enthusiastic and helpful, and gave me a real sense of what a manager does on a day-to-day basis, from planning to budgets to meetings to personnel issues. It seemed to me that though Town Management is sometimes a thankless job, it is one which you can go home at the end of the day and feel like you accomplished something, like you’ve helped someone. To me, that was a career opportunity not to pass up. (Plus it’s super interesting stuff.) So I went on to grad school and now am working with the Town of Rutherfordton on a recodification project, while also doing other fun stuff like working within each department. I hope to be a Town Manager one day, or potentially work in planning.
So that’s me, and I’m working on building my knowledge, education and experience so that I can make a difference too one day, but I’d like to learn as much as I can. So here are my questions to you about local government:

  • What is the hardest part of working in local government and how do I prepare for it? Does working in a Home Rule state versus a Dillon’s Rule state make the challenges different?
  • If there were any aspects of your education that you wish you had developed more before entering local government, what are they?
  • How have relationships between cities evolved over time? Is there more of an emphasis on cooperation or competitiveness, and which approach is most effective?
  • Absolutely anything else that you think I should know.

What I Am Watching:
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Women’s World Cup Soccer. (GO USA!!!) I played as a little girl and the obsession dies hard. I love House of Cards and Archer too, but I really watch documentaries most of the time. I’m definitely a documentary junkie.
What I Am Reading: I just picked up my first summer luxury reading book from the library, before I start doing some more reading for school in the fall. It’s Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris, and it focuses on Teddy Roosevelt’s time in office. So far, it’s pretty awesome. But then again when you were the leader of the Rough Riders, it’s hard to be anything but awesome.
What I Am Thinking About the Apple Watch: Looks awesome, but waaaaay too expensive.
What I Am Afraid of: Spiders. They’re horrible, nasty creatures that sneak up on you when you’re trying to brush your teeth so that you have to run and grab a flip flop—and then almost die from tripping with a toothbrush in your mouth while you’re trying to squish it.
What I Wish I Was Doing (Instead of Completing This Questionnaire): 
At the beach, reading a book by the shore. But absolutely nowhere near the water because I don’t fancy getting shark bit. North Carolina beaches are a regular shark tank this year!
What I Am Listening To: Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, because that’s the CD that’s stuck in my car stereo. Definitely love them though. Enjoying the new Garth Brooks album too. That man can still sing.
What I Wish People Knew About Me:
I love a good debate. Doesn’t matter if I’m expressing my opinion or being a devil’s advocate, there’s something about a good debate with a friend that is refreshing. I love singing and dancing in my car, and if you pass me on the road, I apologize.
What I Am Wishing Would Go Away: Right now, it’s definitely the annoying error message and voice recording that comes out of the printer every time a fax goes wrong. (Imagine a mixture of the dial up sound and the disconnected phone sound. Ugh.)
What I Wished You Asked Me:
What my favorite color is: Duke Blue!
Who the most influential person in my life is: My grandmother, who is the strongest person I’ve ever known, while also being the most selfless.

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