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Polco News & Knowledge

Three Ways Leaders Can Drive Healthy Local Government Organizations

The 2020 CCCMA Winter Conference reveals fundamentals all managers can use to nurture happy, healthy local government workplaces and communities.

- By Angelica Wedell -

“What would your front line employees say about your organization?” keynote speaker Nora Burns asked a few hundred local government leaders at the 2020 Colorado City County Management Association (CCCMA) Winter Conference in Glenwood Springs, Colo.


2020 CCCMA Conference_ Healthy Local Government _Workshop_NRC-Polco

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Damema Mann_2020 CCCMA Conference_ Healthy Local Government _NRC-PolcoThat’s a very good question, and one that may bring managers to think differently about the health of their own organization. “I’m happy to see CCCMA focus on supporting community wellness, from the inside out,” said Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement at National Research Center / Polco. Damema has conducted hundreds of resident and employee surveys for municipalities across the nation. She understands first-hand the impact that a healthy local government has on the community it serves. 

“We know that engaged employees provide better customer service for residents. That makes communities better places to live. It’s so important for governments to create thriving, healthy environments for employees and managers alike,” Damema said.

For managers to drive the internal wellness of their organizations, they must look beyond tasks and deadlines. The CCCMA Conference highlighted three fundamental elements to creating healthier organizations. Important as they are, these elements are often overlooked.

1. Creating a Culture of Play

2020 CCCMA Winter Conference_ Healthy Local Government _Culture of Play_NRC_Polco

When we are young, play is a large and regular part of our lives. Play lets our imaginations run free. It allows us to experiment without worrying about failure. Play reduces stress and even helps us learn better. Play benefits us, as humans, throughout our entire lives. So why do we abandon play once we become working adults?

Keynote speaker Betty Hart challenges local governments to bring fun back into the workplace. Betty leads the Experiential Learning Team for Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Arts Integrated Resources and focuses on community health. “When we laugh, we empower our bodies to do what they are designed to do,” Betty said.

Adding play into our organizations can make for more productive, collaborative, and happier employees. Happy employees make up healthy local government workplaces.

2. Facing Our Fears

2020 CCCMA Conference_Facing Fears_ NRC-Polco

There will always be terrifying moments that strike us at work. But when we overcome our greatest fears, we can reach higher levels of fulfillment and success. 

CCCMA Conference Coordinator Gloria Kaasch-Buerger, Denver Public Library Strategy and Evaluation Manager Kirsten Decker, Pueblo West Metropolitan District Manager Nina Vetter, and Town of Winter Park Assistant Manager Alisha Janes confessed their worst fears. Then they helped us face our own and shared techniques to manage big stressors.

Hats off to Lakewood Deputy City Manager Ben Goldstein for confronting his fear of public speaking, when he took the microphone and addressed the large crowd.

The next time you feel your heart rate spike at work, take a moment to recenter yourself. Breathe in deep, one, two, three, four. Breathe out to a beat of four. Repeat. Stretch your arms up and out. Breathe. Now you can tackle anything!

3. Inspiring Others for a Healthy Local Government Profession

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Anyone can rise to greatness, then inspire and support others along that journey. Each 2020 CCCMA Award winner embodies the spirit of forwarding excellence in the local government profession. 

This year, Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam became the first woman to receive the Manager of the Year Award. When Jane made the career switch from law to local government, she aimed her goals high. She said when she first came to a CCCMA conference years ago, she aspired to earn Manager of Year. Now she’s made that dream come true. Jane is also the City of Boulder’s first female manager, and the fifth ever woman to be president of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

Jane’s staff say she has supported and paved a path for their careers as well. “The best part [is that] Jane Brautigam really is as good of a team leader as her reputation suggests! Congratulations on this amazing recognition,” commented Pam Davis, Boulder’s newly promoted assistant city manager.

The strong presence of female leaders at the CCCMA conference suggests that 2020 is the breakthrough year for women in Colorado local government management.

I imagine staff would never want to leave an organization that cultivates these three principles. They would be too busy having fun, doing what they love. When managers set aside the fear of risks and failure, they can move the community forward in wonderful ways. And when leaders who have achieved great success empower others, the entire profession wins.

Angelica and Damema at CCCMA_Healthy Local Government_NRC-Polco

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