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Local government managers toolkit for a new tomorrow 

by Jessica Wells, League Communications Specialist

The North Carolina City County Management Association held its Winter Seminar Feb. 4 through 6 at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel. Nearly 400 city and county managers, 100 MPA students and 100 vendors participated in the annual event.

This year’s seminar had 11 concurrent sessions and two workshops reflecting its theme of "The Local Government Manager’s Toolkit for a New Tomorrow." Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter opened the conference with his thoughts on a changing North Carolina.

"There’s no going back to the way things were," Clodfelter said. "This is our opportunity to design a North Carolina for the 21st century."

Several legislators also spoke after Clodfelter about forming better working relationships with local government representatives. Former North Carolina State Senator and Wake County Manager Richard Stevens spoke about his current role as a contract lobbyist for Wake County.

According to Stevens, local government managers need to get to know their representatives by making appointments to see them in Raleigh and inviting them to local events when they are at home.

"Only four of the North Carolina Senators are still in office from when I served in 2003," Stevens said. "Many of them come from somewhere else or don’t have a background in municipal government, so it’s your job to present the facts. As managers, you are regarded well as professionals. Pay attention to the importance of your role."

He also said events like Town Hall Day are vital, but you need to make connections year round – don’t wait for a crisis.

City of Edenton Manager Anne-Marie Knighton and her Representative Bob Steinburg participated in a panel discussion on how managers can advance communication with their delegation. The two keep in close contact and even occasionally carpool regional events.

"It’s important for people like Anne-Marie to take an active role. I can’t possibly know what’s happening everywhere," Steinburg said. "I’m only there to help. I’m not going to intentionally hurt anyone, but if you’re not telling me what you need, you’re hurting yourself."

The second day of the seminar began with alumni breakfasts for eight MPA programs before attendees broke off into the 11 concurrent sessions. The sessions covered a range of topics from cyber security to managing capital investments and speed coaching for MPA students.

Between sessions, professional development coach Joe Coury delivered the President’s Luncheon keynote address titled, "It All Starts With You."

"It’s your responsibility to develop yourself so you can develop tomorrow’s leaders," Coury said.

The developing tomorrow’s local government managers is a top priority for the Association. More than 100 MPA students from North Carolina universities attend the seminar each year to participate in the sessions, speed coaching and networking events. At the President’s Luncheon, nine students were recognized for earning scholarships in their respective MPA programs.

The scholarship winners were:

  • Ian Bumgarner, Appalachian State University’s Matt W. Williamson Scholarship;
  • Henry Boyd, East Carolina University’s Donald B. Hayman Scholarship;
  • LaQuana Palmer, North Carolina Central University’s Gordon Whitaker Scholarship;
  • Hunter Isgrig, North Carolina State University’s John “Jack” Vogt Scholarship;
  • Allison Hawkins, UNC-Chapel Hill’s John Milton Gold Scholarship;
  • Michael Tkachuk, UNC-Charlotte’s Albert and Gladys Coates Scholarship;
  • Hunter Frank, UNC-Greensboro’s Marvin Hoffman Scholarship;
  • Bo Weichel, UNC-Pembroke’s NCCCMA MPA Scholarship
  • Meg Young, UNC-Wilmington’s NCCCMA MPA Scholarship; and
  • Amanda Owens, Western Carolina University’s Jake Wicker Scholarship.

The association has a tradition of honoring a few individuals each year with Life Membership. The Executive Committee automatically honors managers who have retired after serving 15 to 25 years, depending on age, with Life Membership, but may also award it to those who have made exceptional contributions to the field.

The following were inducted as Life Members: Andy Wilkison of Pinehurst, Jerry Ayscue of Vance County, Ray Allen of Albemarle, Jerry Walters of Oak Island, and Ray Griffin of Henderson.

After lunch, managers had an opportunity to provide input to the League’s strategic visioning process, which was launched in October at the League Annual Conference, CityVision 2014. The School of Government led a session to discuss trends, issues, concerns, forecasts and actions that might be jointly undertaken by city and county governments.

Other afternoon sessions included a crisis communications workshop where managers and police chiefs discussed how they would respond to situations like what happened in Ferguson, followed by a discussion led by a communications professional .

The Association’s Summer Seminar will take place in Wilmington at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside June 18 to 20. Visit http://www.ncmanagers.org for more information and presentations from the Winter Seminar.