Having settled into my community of University Park in Texas, there has been some time to reflect on the past week. What a week it has been. As a first time traveller to the US, the trip from Dunedin to DC was an adventure in and of itself.
Once here ICMA had planned a day where we could recover from the flight. Perfect. That day saw the three kiwis spend time exploring some of the amazing attractions of the City. The weather was divine and it was a day well spent and enjoyed. It was rounded out when Laura Hagg took us to a nearby eatery “Union Market” which not only had fabulous food but showed us a side of the city we may not otherwise have seen!
Monday was a day spent at ICMA. The whole day was great. I found Martha Perego’s presentation on ethics of real value and already have taken things from that to apply to my community challenge. The day also provided time to learn more about the other fellows and begin to develop an understanding of the different issues facing each of our communities.
The week was action packed with the trip to the State Department and the Senate being highlights. The presentation from Susan Stevenson was insightful and then the opportunity to discuss our regional issues seemed to provide benefits for all who attended. The trip to Senator Wyden’s office was an eye-opener with the constant through-put of people wanting to meet with their elected representative. His approach to community engagement seemed very authentic and has been reinforced by the approaches of both Walter Tejada from Arlington and Rashad Young from Alexandria. The approach and attitude of these managers and elected representatives to engagement is one my major learnings of the first week.
FEMA matters were well canvassed in Alexandria with Mark Penn and Pamela Williams presenting information on how the approach to emergency management was handled locally and federally. Given the circumstances of the Boston tragedy and the possible ricin incident at the Senate, it was topical.
I have really valued the time spent discussing issues with the other fellows and have gained real insight into the similarities and differences we all face within our communities and countries. Factor in the opportunities we have had to look more closely at the US systems of both local government and federal/state governments. As others have said “it depends” was a common answer.
The environment created at ICMA has been great for learning. There is a strong degree of trust within the group and we are able to ask any questions we have – no matter how minor they may seem. The time spent, this week, in building this bond will serve as well through the rest of the fellowship and once we go home to our communities. I know already that I have made some very good friends.