Aspiring local government leaders gathered together for the 3rd Annual Emerging Managers Summit in Durango, CO, hosted by the Colorado City County Management Association (CCCMA). The Summit addressed a variety of local government issues including the growing need for new talent, as members of more experienced generations begin to leave the workforce.
U.S. Census data shows that Millennials have superseded Baby Boomers as the largest generation by population, and local government experts have seen this shift play out in city management. Keynote speaker Ron Holifield, Founder and CEO of Strategic Government Resources, discussed what these trends mean for up-and-coming leaders and encouraged them to take the next step in their careers. “I want to leave you today with the sense of grabbing every second this world can give. Live every day making a difference, knowing deep down in your heart, that you are profoundly affecting peoples’ lives,” Holifield said.
Young professionals attending the Summit expressed their awareness of this issue and the challenges they will face in resolving it. “We’re losing a lot of really talented, really experienced people who are retiring. And so a lot of new professionals who haven’t done much of this stuff before will have to take up some of those roles,” said Matt Hirschinger, City of Delta, CO Intern. “At the same time, communities are asking more [of their local governments.]”
Parrish Gibson, Special Projects Coordinator for the City of Aurora, CO, explained why many of her peers have not chosen local government as a career. “A lot of people don’t know that this profession exists,” Gibson said. “Those who are getting their masters in public administration usually go the non-profit route because they think that’s their only way to change the world. [They don’t realize that] in local government, you see first-hand the policies that you implement. You can see [the change] in your community and the effect it has.
One attendee shared his own journey into local government. “I came from non-profits. In my non-profit work, I felt really limited by very narrow mission statements,” said Greg Brinck, Town of Cedaredge, CO Intern. For him, local government is the more fulfilling career choice. “I think when people see how rewarding and how great local government work can be, people will want to become a part of the profession. It’s so great to work a little bit behind the scenes as an administrator and not necessarily get the glory but really improve citizens’ lives,” Brinck elaborated. “I love that local government gets to work beyond one issue or one problem.”
Attendees like Hirschinger agreed that local governments can do a better job of attracting young talent by spreading the word and making the profession better known. They also recommended sending staff to training events such as this one, to further themselves in the profession and collaborate with peers.
As the Colorado state affiliate of ICMA and member organization of ELGL, CCCMA encourages emerging managers to nurture relationships with colleagues and experienced mentors. These connections will help to keep talent in the field, and prepare new leaders as local government evolves.
Summit speaker Angelica Wedell, National Research Center (NRC) Marketing and Business Development Coordinator, added that local government organizations can start filling the gaps in their staffing by learning the perspectives of their employees. “If you have trouble retaining members of the new workforce, employee survey results can show you why,” Wedell said.
“Surveys are a great resource,” the City of Aurora’s Parrish Gibson concurred. “I think every community should take advantage of them.”
At the CCCMA Emerging Managers Summit, we met young professionals inspired by the work they find meaningful in local government. Seeing their motivation gives us confidence that the future of city management is in good hands, as these emerging managers fill the roles of leadership that need them.