Thursday, September 20, 2012

Clark County (NV) seeks Management Analyst Intern

This is a great opportunity to start your career in local government. Clark County (serving the Las Vegas community) is looking to fill a Management Analyst Intern position in the County Manager's office. The position has a spectacular starting salary - $48,000 - and with home prices still very low in Las Vegas, you can get into a very affordable home. You only have to deal with the heat, which isn't really THAT bad. Take the advice of a Las Vegas native and don't pass up this opportunity!

Check out the Employment tab for more info.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Graduate Fellowship in Huntington Beach

The City of Huntington Beach, CA has listed a graduate management fellowship on their website. Fellowships are a great way to see a diversity of municipal operations, get crucial mentoring, and participate on projects that matter. Check out the Employment page for more details.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Management Assistant position in Arizona

The City of Goodyear, Arizona, is looking for a management assistant. This is an excellent entry-level position with a very generous pay grade. Look at the the Employment tab for more details.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New entry-level opportunity in Redlands, CA

The City of Redlands, CA is looking for a Senior Administrative Analyst. This position only requires an Associate's degree and some experience in local government. Check out the Employment page for more details.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Entry level opportunity in Washington State

The City of Tacoma has posted a six month temporary Management Analyst position in their budget office. Check out the employment tab for more info and a link to the announcement.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Counties Work!

I discovered a gem this morning. Last year, the National Association of Counties launched an interactive computer game - perhaps similar to "The Sims" - in which children (or really nerdy adults?!) "assume the role of a county official responsible for providing services, dealing with citizen requests, setting and raising revenues, and working within a budget. Along the way, students learn about the various services provided by county departments — such as road maintenance, law enforcement, courtroom and jail services, parks and recreation and library services — while having to make tough spending and tax levy decisions, and face re-election."

It's genius (and free!)

Here's a link to the latest press release: NACo Newsroom

And here's a link to the game:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Delegates v. Trustees

I went to a City Council meeting a few nights ago where the Council looked at two major issues: the new Fiscal Year Budget and an ordinance banning smoking in public places. I was frustrated during that meeting for two reasons. First, some residents complained about not being included in the political process (not enough meetings, not enough interaction between staff, council, and residents). Second, I realized that they would not likely support adding resources to the City budget to provide the 360-degree access they desire.

We pride ourselves on our democracy here in America, except we don't really live in a democracy. We live in a federal constitutional republic. We don't all vote for everything. We give the power to legislate to others - our city councils, state assemblies, school boards, and federal representatives. Much of the legislation that goes on at virtually every level of politics does not involve the average citizen. We assume that our elected officials act as either delegates or trustees, and the responsibility depends upon the geography's politics.

A delegate is selected by a population to represent them and their interests. Inherently, a delegate is given power to act without necessarily a direct means of accountability to his or her constituents beyond the ballot box. The delegate, having received legislative power from the constituency, can vote his or her conscience on any issue.

A trustee, on the other hand, faces more significant constraints. When elected, trustees are given power only to act directly in the interests of their electors. They have a fiduciary responsibility to act as the voice of their district, ward, precinct, or state.

Tuesday's Council meeting was the most clear example of schizophrenic American politics that I have ever witnessed. For simplicity, I'll divide the meeting into two parts. The first part consisted of a dicussion of the annual budget while the second part was the final public hearing about the smoking ban.

During the budget debate, only two individuals spoke about the proposed budget. In particular, the second person was upset about the lack of public input about the budget process. The City Manager responded by saying that the city had held at least twice as many public meetings than last year and that any resident is welcome to contact their city council representative if they have input before the vote. The woman was pretty upset at that response.

The Council Chamber was still packed during the second portion of the meeting for the final vote on a smoking ban in public places. Those opposed to a smoking ban vowed to start a petition for a referendum the next day and "let the people decide."

Wait...didn't the people already decide? Didn't they elect their representatives? Do they want their council members to be delegates or trustees? Certainly, as delegates the council has the agency to make the decisions they feel are the best for their city. If they were trustees, they would be constrained to make the decision that at least a majority of their constituents support.

I think a great problem in representative democracy is that people want it to go both ways. Tuesday night was an exceptional opportunity to juxtapose the two models. During the budget portion of the night - what is supposed to be the major fiscal and policy document that guides the city over the next 12 months - residents were at best ambivalent and at worst completely uninformed. They clearly left this major document to their elected delegates to make the right decision.

At the same time, the smoking ban clearly became a battleground between the majority of the council (which ultimately passed the ordinance) and residents opposed to the ban. Those opposed wanted the council to act as trustees - to vote exactly as they wished as if the council were puppets attached by strings to their constituents. Even more frightening, they wish to use a referendum to overturn the ban. One man even claimed that "all major projects like this should be voted on directly by voters."

Right. Like that works out well (California, anyone?).

Ultimately, I think that our politicians are delegates. Anyone who expects their elected officials to act as trustees all of the time are living in a dream world. Politicians only act as trustees long enough to make certain they have 51% of the vote - and the constituency could care less about most of the issues.

Want responsible government? Make informed decisions about candidates and participate whenever possible.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Great opportunity in Provo

The City of Provo, Utah has a Policy Analyst (Management Analyst I, II, or III) position open. Check out the Employment tab for details.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview with Steve Thacker, City Manager of Centerville, Utah

Editor’s note: This interview is the third in a series of conversations I had with managers at the ICMA Annual Conference in Milwaukee. Each of these managers represents a city or county that has offered or is currently offering Management Internships – one- to two-year postgraduate work and mentoring experiences that help new MPAs and MPPs get their feet wet in city management.

City Profile:

Centerville City has approximately 16,000 people and only 51 full time employees. It has a number of part time and limited employees, as we call them. [They are] seasonal employees in our Parks and Recreation department.

The total budget is about $16 million. The largest source of sales tax revenue is Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart came to town in 2007. Just before the recession hit. We are very grateful to have had the Wal-Mart sales tax to prop us up.

Steve Thacker

Where did you start your career and how did you become a city manager?

Well, I was in the MPA program at BYU. Between my first and second year of graduate school I did an internship in the city of Mesa, Arizona. Mesa is where I grew up. I did settle on a specialty of city management; however, upon graduation I took a job as a performance auditor for the State of Arizona for the legislative branch. They were beginning a performance audit division in their Auditor General’s office. I took that opportunity and did that for five years. It was excellent experience in building the skills that became very useful and valuable later on as a city manager. After five years of doing that I had my first opportunity in city management – the town manager, the first town manager – in Snowflake, Arizona. After six years there, I became the city administrator in CaƱon City, Colorado, which is at the mouth of the Royal Gorge. I stayed there eight and a half years and then took the job in Centerville. I began that job in February of 1998.

My career has spanned 33 years in public service; 28 years in city government at this point.

What is the greatest issue facing your city?

We have several land use planning initiatives. They are probably our hot-button issues.

They’re probably the greatest issues because any time you alter a general land use plan you have folks who may perceive that as detrimental. For example, we have adopted a plan for the redevelopment of the commercial part of Main Street. Some sections of Main Street are residential but we have a section that is commercial. It has not been a vibrant part of our community and the council wanted to create a plan that would bring redevelopment to that corridor, including some enhanced public transit. What that means, bottom line, is higher density and mixed use development that includes multi-family units. Then there would be commercial developments and also the possibility of more intense public transit, whether it’s bus rapid transit or a streetcar type thing as part of the South Davis Transit Initiative. So the combination of some higher residential density along the Main Street Corridor and the more intense public transit really alarmed a lot of people. We’ve had a lot of controversy on that. The City Council has gone back and revisited that plan and tweaked it in response to that: reducing the height of the buildings and the numbers of units in them and has taken out any reference to light rail specifically. Although it still refers to public transit generally until further studies are done to find out what else might be feasible.

And then we have a foothills management plan. The area on the east side on the mountainside is largely undeveloped. It’s mostly outside city limits. We want to control what happens to that land so we have developed a management plan expressing the potential uses of the mountainside, the constraints on development, and what the guiding values should be for the development of that land.

We’re also putting in a fiber optic network – Utopia – and they’re finally getting around to building the network in Centerville. That’s a high-profile subject right now. There are 11 cities that actually pledged funds for Utopia, that have an obligation to pay a yearly assessment. We are one of those cities.

How do you avoid pigeon-holing yourself in one particular department or specialty in city management?

It would be best to have some strengths in specialty areas...more in-depth experience. But you’d also need some exposure to many other areas. If you just know a little bit about a lot of things, that might work too if you can convince them that you have the skill set that will serve you well [in that position]. City managers can move up specializing in finance or personnel or planning or even public works for example. But if you have some exposure to a number of different areas that just broadens your appeal.

What’s the most awkward interview question you’ve ever asked or been asked?

That’s a tough one. I remember many years ago when I was trying to find my first city management job. They asked me how I felt about receiving grants. I suspected that the person asking the question was an ultra-conservative who didn’t like the idea of the strings that come attached with receiving grants. I think the question was “Would you seek and accept grants on behalf of the city?” and guessing the motives and philosophy of the person asking the question I took the safe route and said, “Well, you know it depends upon the position of the city council. Do they want to seek and use grants or not?” That’s a pretty safe answer.

Let’s talk a little about your management internship. Given that many cities are cutting these types of jobs, was it difficult to fund this position and “sell” it to your council?

It was not. No, it wasn’t difficult. It is a year-by-year budget decision. As I anticipate whether I have the collection of projects or accumulation of projects that would justify an intern I make that decision when I prepare the annual budget. Then I put those amounts in. If I think I may want one, I put that amount in. The council has been supportive; they’ve never turned me down when I requested it. But as you know we only have 51 full-time employees…it’s a pretty skimpy staff. That includes police and public works and parks maintenance people and all that so we don’t have a lot of bodies available to do special projects and assignments. The council understands that so they’ve always been supportive when I’ve asked for that funding.

How many times have you offered a position similar to this one?

Let me just talk about the last six years. I’ve had five interns in the last six years. I missed last year. Other than that I’ve had one every year. One year I did share the intern with the city of Bountiful. We split it half and half, twenty hours a week for each city. But it didn’t work so well. I don’t think there is enough accountability with the intern split between two employers. I feel like I didn’t have as much control over it. One year, I had a three way internship with three cities. That one worked ok because I actually had the intern for six weeks, somebody else had him for six weeks, and another city had him for six weeks. As opposed to trying to split their time every week, that type of sharing seemed to work better, although we only had him for six weeks.

As a member of the ICMA Task Force on Internship Guidelines, we’ve discussed changing the stigma of internships from “coffee and copies” to an “apprenticeship.” How would your management intern fit into that category?

I like that. That is really how I’ve been thinking about the intern. I’ve had interns not simply because I think they can give us some value for the relatively low wage we pay them but because I am committed to preparing the next generation of city managers. I have a lot of passion for this profession and I want to give that future generation of city managers a good start. The way I’ve looked at it is: “This is an apprenticeship. I want to give that intern as much insight into the challenges of being a city manager as possible and allow them to learn those things that they’re not going to learn in a classroom.” Because of that, one of the regular parts of my internships or apprenticeships is I have a weekly time set with my intern throughout the four-month period…an established block of time where the intern not only reports on the assignments but also can ask questions about anything that they’ve observed while they’re on the job. If they’ve observed something at a council meeting, interaction between the council members, the dynamics of the meeting, if they’ve observed something in the departments they’ve been working in…Anything at all. The issues facing the community, some of the public reaction at public hearings, they can ask about anything. There is nothing off-limits. And that’s how I think they’re going to gain the insights that they’re not going to gain in the classroom. It’s by seeing those things in real life and having the chance to talk about them.

I think that’s in line with the idea that this is an apprenticeship… a way for someone to really become a city manager someday.

What trends, positive or negative, do you see from recent MPA grads?

I don’t know if there are any negatives that I can think of offhand, and I see a lot of positives. They’re coming out of the BYU program with great quantitative skills, the use of technology and software, in order to document and analyze data is really amazing. My current intern, Ben, has an amazing ability to analyze data by the use of Excel and other software, some of it I wasn’t familiar with. That’s one of the advances, obviously, since my time in grad school. I’m a technology dinosaur! But I can appreciate the value of it.

They’re probably better writers. The BYU program has a heavy emphasis on writing and that seems to be the case with the interns I’ve had. For the most part, they’re pretty good writers. They have a desire for public service. That’s always been there for those that go into an MPA program.

Negative trends? I don’t know. I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Regarding the interns I have had from BYU, the values they come out with are really well placed for public service.

Do you have any last thoughts for someone seeking their first job?

I had an inquiry from a student the other day. He was faced with the choice of continuing to be an intern with [another city] or taking an internal audit position with the [State] Department of Corrections. He was wondering “Which one will serve me best?” I didn’t give him an answer specifically, but [I said] “Here are the things you need to think about:

1. What kind of assignments will you get in that position which will relate to your future goal of city management?

2. Are you going to be exposed to subject matter that will be relevant?

3. Are you going to be able to use and refine skills that will be relevant to city management?”

If you can get all of those, that’s best. I was a performance auditor for the first five years of my career and I was exposed to some of the subject matter that I was ultimately going to see in city management. The assignments that I had included the Department of Administration and the Department of Transportation. But the skills I was required to use were even more valuable for later use in city management.

Someone looking for their first job – if they want to be a city manager – then they need to be thinking about those things: The assignments, the subject matter, and the skill set and are those going to be relevant to city management. You could get that kind of experience in many different positions. If you don’t have many choices, that’s a different situation. You may even try the private sector. Any job that helps you build your interpersonal skills, your conceptual skills, and your analytical skills…you can transfer those to [any job] in the private or public sector.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New entry-level jobs!

Check out these new jobs in

Lawrence, KS - Management Intern
Mesa, AZ - Budget Associate I
Baltimore, MD - Budget Analyst I
Mesa, AZ - Management Assistant II
Provo, UT - Graduate Intern

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fort Collins Management Assistantship

I received this information from Josh Jones, a friend of mine in the city of Fort Collins, Colorado.

The City of Fort Collins Management Assistant Program allows current Master of Public Administration students and recent graduates the opportunity to gain valuable career related experience in a wide variety of areas of municipal operations. This position provides future municipal leaders with the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals in a community consistently rated as one of the best places to live in the country. As a stand-alone municipality of over 140,000 residents, interns have the opportunity to learn about the inner-workings of a full-service city.

The intern will be provided the opportunity to work on projects based in a variety of City departments while maintaining a “home base” in the City Manager’s Office. Interns will be involved in research, analytical work, and managing special projects. This position represents a one-year internship.

Assist the City Manager’s Office in researching high-level issues of concern as they arise. Performs entry level program analysis, organizational and administrative field studies, and statistical analysis of research data. Reports findings of research or study to the City Manager or other executive staff and elected officials in writing and in person. Plan and coordinate various meetings and internal training opportunities. Participate in the City Budget and Capital Improvement Program process.

Graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with major course work in a field related to Public or Business Administration, Political Science, urban planning or closely related field. Applicants must have completed or substantially completed coursework toward a Master of Public Administration or closely related degree by June 2012.

Application deadline is February 21, 2012.

Applicants will submit the following by e-mail, to Josh Jones:
1) A cover letter stating interest and intent; 2) A current resume listing education, university(ies) attended, degree and completion dates, and professional work experience.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sedgwick County, KS Management Internship

Sedgwick County has announced their management internship for 2012-2013. They will be hiring up to three positions. Sedgwick County serves the city of Wichita, and through an interesting financing program aided in part by Wichita State University they are some of the most regular recruiters of MPA grads for fellowships.

More information is on the employment page.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

City of Wichita Management Fellowship

Wichita has posted an announcement about their Management Fellow position for 2012-2013. Find the basic details on the Employment page.