Skip to Main Content

A new season of local government management at Winter Seminar 

by Jessica Wells, NCLM Communications Associate

The North Carolina City and County Management Association’s strategic plan to build a strong foundation for the future of local government was the focus of the 55th Annual Winter Seminar Feb. 4-6. More than 300 city and county managers from across the state gathered at the Sheraton Research Triangle Park to discuss new trends and to network with colleagues.

The Association is working with the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government on its strategic plan, which is similar to plans underway at the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.

“We hope that you’ll have fresh ideas, new tools, and important insights for leading and managing North Carolina’s cities and counties in the time ahead – especially in the current political environment,” School of Government Professor Carl Stenburg said. “We hope that you’ll leave with a recommitment to our profession – the ideals, the values and the vision.”

Several of the 10 concurrent sessions focused on evolving workplaces and
issues facing local governments. There were three conference workshops: Are you Future Ready?; Leadership Skills for Managing Wicked Problems; and Performance Management Wars: The Workforce Awakens.

International City/County Management Association Executive Director Robert O’Neill delivered the keynote address, describing how he sees the future of local government management.

"I think we can set a series of expectations that people are going to have to work collaboratively across disciplines and boundaries to get to the desired outcome,” O’Neill said. “Many of you have probably seen this already because much of the work you do is catalytic and connecting people to produce the resources because we’ll never have all the resources that are necessary.”

O’Neill said he believes the local government of the future will have to rethink the way it’s structured to achieve a collaborative partnership between public, private and nonprofit sectors. In addition to more collaboration on pooling resources, he noted that the coming years will be the first time in more than 100 years that leaders will have to manage a workforce spanning five generations, with employees likely ranging from 15 to 80 years of age.

“I wrote a series of articles for Governing magazine, and when I finished it, I wished I were 25 again because I think the next decade will be the most important decade in the role that local government plays in our communities,” O’Neill said.

Because of this, the Association has shown a commitment to developing
young leaders in the local government management field. Nearly 90 Masters in Public Administration students from the state’s 10 MPA programs attended the conference and participated in a speed coaching session with seasoned managers for career advice.

North Carolina is home to more International City/County Management
Association chapters than any other state. Each year, select students are recognized for earning scholarships at their respective universities. This year’s recipients are listed to the left.

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: Pinetops Administrator Gregory Bethea, Davidson Manager Leamon B. Brice, Davidson County Manager Robert C. Hyatt, Valdese Manager Jeffrey V. Morse, Burlington City Manager Harold Owens, Apex Manager Bruce A. Radford, East Spencer Administrator Macon C. Sammons, and Cary Manager Benjamin T. Shivar.

As a special honor, the Association conferred honorary membership upon O’Neill for his distinguished career in local government. O’Neill is retiring at the end of 2016 after 14 years of service to the international association and more than three decades of service to local government management.

Honorary membership is highly selective and limited to those who are not members of the Association. It is decided by unanimous consent of voting members. In addition to membership, the Association presented O’Neill with a $1,000 donation to the Robert J. O’Neill Scholarship Fund.

Lee Worsley, Triangle J Council of Governments executive director, served on the international association’s board for three years and said he considered O’Neill a thought leader even before he began working closely with him.

“As I served on the board, those impressions of Bob were clearly exceeded. The mark he left on ICMA and the profession can’t be appreciated,” Worsley said. “He has an ability to look at the future – what challenges and opportunities face our profession – and present it in a way that gets you thinking.”

The Association’s Summer Seminar will take place in Asheville at the
Renaissance Hotel June 23 to 25. Visit for more information and presentations from the Winter Seminar.