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Polco News & Knowledge

Forward Together: Top Ten Messages Local Governments Need Most Right Now

Virtual conference recordings provide training and inspiration for local government leaders to help their communities recover and thrive.

Servant leaders today are shaping the face of local government tomorrow. “This is a once in a century opportunity for us to change how government is viewed,” said performance and innovation coach Nick Kittle as emcee of the Forward Together Virtual Conference in Spring 2020.

As the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments look not only toward recovery but also surpassing the status quo.

“This is the time to reinvent, reimagine, re-engage, and rediscover. If we want to thrive, recovery is not the goal. You can do better walking out of this crisis then you did walking in,” said Kittle.

Local government leaders from around the nation gathered at the Forward Together Virtual Conference in Spring 2020 to share ideas for how to come out of the pandemic stronger.  These conference presentations feature thought-leading experts in city management, budget and finance, innovation, community engagement, human resources, research, and more. The sessions provide examples, advice, concrete next steps, and inspiration. View these recordings and help take your professional development to the next level.

Together, local government leaders can do bold, innovative things so our communities emerge more resilient, healthier, and stronger. 

These virtual conferene presentations are made possible by Polco/National Research Center (NRC), International City/County Management Association (ICMA), National League of Cities (NLC), Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL), Alliance for Innovation (AFI), Tennessee City Management Association (TCMA), Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), Iowa City/County Management Association (IaCMA), and Nick Kittle.


Now Is Your Moment with Nick Kittle


Great Hope in Hard Times with Rebecca Ryan and Mark Funkhouser

Bells That Can’t Be Unrung: Local Government Impacts (ELGL)

- with Daniel Bolin (Partner at Ancel Glink) and Julia Novak (Executive Vice President Novak Consulting Group)

Telehealth, alcohol delivery, Zoom meetings, #WFH, and more – work and life is different now. What changes will stick around, and what will go back to pre-COVID times? How should local governments adapt and change based on what we’ve learned?

State Preemption Before, During, & After COVID-19

-with Mayor Andy Berke (Chattanooga, TN), Kim Haddow, (Director of the Local Solutions Support Center), Mayor Vince Williams (Union City, GA), Spencer Wagner (Local Democracy, National League of Cities)

COVID-19 has highlighted an issue that has long challenged mayors and council members responding to the needs of their communities: state preemption. Used during the crisis by states to revoke local emergency orders, state preemption has also been enacted by dozens of states to limit cities, towns and villages from enacting environmental regulations, employee protections, LGBT+ friendly policies, and even impacted the taxes cities can collect. This panel will explore how preemption has stymied local efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and what state interference, or local-state cooperation, could look like in the future.

Show Me the Money: Building (and Sustaining) Better Budgets Through Performance Measurement (TCMA)

– with Michael Walters Young (Budget & Strategic Innovation Manager, City of Franklin Tennessee)

We all know the drill: Not enough resources, too many demands for services, and limited ways to meet the needs of elected officials, citizens, and staff. And that was BEFORE COVID-19. Increasing or sustaining budgets is often a multi-year process and requires trust. Come listen to how you can build trust, demonstrate your operational effectiveness and provide services for your citizens in normal times and in light of the current pandemic by incorporating performance measurement within the annual budget. You will leave this session with demonstrable ways to improve your budget process with stories of success throughout the county and strategies for how to keep afloat in these challenging times.

Improving Decision-Making During Difficult Times (AFI)

– with Laurie Buczek (Consulting Advisor for the Alliance for Innovation)

What is your instinctive approach to decision making? If you are prone to be an optimistic big picture thinker, then chances are you may not always consider potential downsides. If you are more cautious and require “just the facts”, you might not leverage instinctive or possibility thinking. During difficult times, there is a stronger tendency to rely upon your natural style to make decisions. Often, the best decisions come from leveraging a variety of viewpoints and ways to approach problem solving. It is called whole brain thinking. In this session, you will learn how to use a simple, yet powerful tool called Six Thinking Hats to improve your decision-making.

Fiscal First Aid: 12 Steps to Financial Recovery (GFOA)

with Shayne Kavanagh (Senior Manager of Research for GFOA)

The public safety concerns that the COVID pandemic raises are top of mind for local government officials, and with good reason. Another consequence of the pandemic is the financial consequence for local governments. To help local government deal with the tenuous financial situation, GFOA has provided a program called Fiscal First Aid: Recovering from Financial Distress. This program was actually created more than ten years ago to help local governments deal with the 2008 Great Recession. It was extremely popular at the time and we have completely updated and revised it for 2020. At this session we will provide an overview of the recovery process and show you how to access these free resources.

Mental Health and Wellness For Servant Leaders (ICMA)

-with Priscilla Wilson (Chief People Officer for ICMA), Mila Cosgrove (Deputy City Manager for Juneau, Alaska), Jennifer Fennema (Director of Human Resources for Henderson, Nevada)

Though Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed during the month of May in the United States since 1949, it is an especially relevant topic in May 2020 due to the impact COVID 19 has had on individuals around the globe. As servant leaders in our local governments, we quickly go into action to take care of our citizens and employees during times of uncertainty, often overlooking our own needs. This session will focus on the importance of mental health and well-being for city/county administrators, their executive teams and their employees during this time of transition and change.

Read up on how each organization is addressing employee wellness. 

Human Resources Post COVID  – the 3 R’s – Reinvent the Workplace; Remote Work and Redeployment of Resources (Iowa City/County Management) 

-with Heidi Voorhees (President of GovHRUSA) and Ron Holifield (CEO of Strategic Government Resources)

The post COVID workplace will require the same or more creativity, ingenuity and flexibility that local government professionals are exhibiting in the midst of this crisis.  This session will discuss some key post COVID challenges local government professionals will encounter as they lead their teams.

Our Brave New World: COVID-19 and Local Government Disruption (Polco/NRC)

– with Michelle Kobayashi (Sr. VP of Innovation, Polco/NRC), Katherine Correll (Exec. Director, Downtown Colorado Inc.), Rick Getschow (City Manager, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)

COVID-19 impacts on local governments and the communities they serve has been immense. The changing nature of the pandemic and what it means to governance, while overwhelming, also can be viewed through a lens of disruption. This presentation will focus on all of the COVID-19 research NRC/Polco have conducted since the pandemic. We’ll take a look at the largest challenges to residents, the business community and local governing bodies. Also hear how local governments are adapting and planning to adjust to a post-COVID-19 reality.  You’ll get smart ideas on how to use the disruptive nature of COVID-19 to improve communities and governing.

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