This is the second in a four part series on local government mentorship.
MEET A MENTOR: Patricia Martel
Patricia Martel is the current City Manager of Daly City, CA and past ICMA president. While starting her professional life as a journalist, Martel found her calling in local government and has worked in the field for well over 30 years. Martel has created mentorship programs promoting diversity in local government’s top leadership roles. She has also been seen traveling the country at ELGL conferences and League of Women in Government summits, speaking with aspiring leaders and empowering them to take the next steps in their careers. In this interview, Martel explains why mentorship is especial crucial to the advancement of women and people of color in the highest levels of local government.
Angelica:Why is mentorship important?
Patricia Martel: Mentorship is important to support the advancement of emerging and mid-career leaders in local government. It provides an opportunity for mentees to learn from others’ experiences and to gain valuable insights from others’ perspectives as their careers unfold. Mentorship also creates a safe relationship between the mentee and a more experienced local government manager/leader that can allow for sharing difficult issues and circumstances that might not be possible with others within the mentee’s organization or network. Most importantly, mentorship helps mentees to understand that they are not alone in their local government careers and to develop the confidence to ask for help from others. There are always others who have been through similar experiences, both positive and negative, who can lend insights that will help emerging and mid-career leaders to see that they can overcome tough situations and develop resiliency. It is particularly important for me to support the advancement of women, people of color and inclusion in the profession because it has impacted my career. Mentorship allows me the opportunity to work with diverse individuals and groups to support their advancement.
Who has been a mentor in your own life? What did they do for you?
I have had many mentors and coaches throughout my career. My initial mentor, and the one who probably had the most impact on my career, was the City Manager of the very first city I worked for out of graduate school. He taught me how to be a local government manager by exposing me to a range of professional development opportunities and always challenging me to accept more responsibility. This enabled me to learn the nuts and bolts of being a manager. Through him I learned not to be afraid of the unknown or not having all of the right answers. I also learned the value of a professional network, like ICMA [and ELGL], to broaden the range of perspectives from which I could learn how to do my job more effectively. What I have always appreciated about my first mentor was that he taught me a great deal about my profession without micromanaging my learning. He provided the environment to learn and then pushed me to seek my own way, with the assurance that I would always have a “lifeline” if things didn’t work out as planned. Many of the other colleagues who have served as mentors for me over the years, including Elected Officials, City Managers, Assistant City Managers, City Attorneys, and others outside of government, have expanded my perspective and understanding of how to deal with people and situations in a political context that we cannot control. These have been valuable lessons because once you learn the mechanics of being a local government manager, learning to be an effective leader becomes the next phase of professional growth.
Why have you decided to take on a mentor role?
Feeling so fortunate for the support I have received throughout my career from mentors and coaches, colleagues, friends and family, I feel that it is my personal and professional responsibility to “pay it forward” to others. Recognizing that people need to see what they can be, being a woman and person of color, I try to lead by example and support others who aspire to do what I am able to do in this profession. I actively remind my colleagues that “somewhere, somehow, someone helped you to realize your career aspirations and goals” and it becomes your responsibility to help others succeed, as well. This profession has been such an important part of my life that anything I can do to encourage and support others to commit to public service as a career will allow me to give back all that I have received throughout my career.
What's one career/life lesson you've learned that you'd like to share with others?
What helps to build one’s confidence throughout your career is a willingness to be vulnerable. It’s knowing that anything you have felt or are going through in your career or life, someone else has too. So being willing to reach out to others - a mentor, trusted colleague or friend - will help you to overcome whatever insecurity you may have and begin to build confidence and resiliency. All of our mistakes have meaning. So being open to learning from those mistakes can make the difference between succeeding and getting stuck. Learning from others’ mistakes or challenges and how they gained perspective which allowed them to move on can be of enormous support on your career path.