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Blogs / ICMA Students: Trending from Tomorrow’s Leaders / Be Courageous and Intentional: Expanding Diversity and Inclusiveness in Local Government Profession

Be Courageous and Intentional: Expanding Diversity and Inclusiveness in Local Government Profession

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Student Chapter Call on Increasing Diversity and Inclusiveness within the Local Government Management Profession.

Over 30 students and student chapters took part in the call with ICMA President Pat Martel, ICMA President and City Manager of Daly City, CA;  Mary Furtado, Assistant County Manager of Catawba County, NC; Dawn Ashbacher, Town Manager of Sykesville, MD; Joe McRae, Director of Parks and Recreation for Cleveland Heights, OH; and Kent Wyatt, Senior Management Analyst for Tigard, OR and co-founder of ELGL.

As ICMA continues our work on expanding diversity and inclusiveness within local government management, we recognize the importance of including students, the future of the profession, in the process. The speakers shared their own experiences entering and working in the profession, why they believe diversity is a necessity in our local governments, and how they think we can change the face of local government management leaders.

Several major themes came out of the call. They include:

  • Mentors are vital for growth and success
  • You should believe in and trust yourself
  • It takes courage to have conversations about diversity and inclusiveness, but
  • Intentional ACTION is necessary to bring about change

Each speaker issued challenges to the students. They include:

Mary Furtado:

"Find someone who looks or thinks differently than you and work to engage him or her in a meaningful way, sort of beyond the superficial. Asking questions about what they value, about what challenges they see, and perhaps advancing diversity and inclusivity…Work to overcome this notion that because you are young or because you are new in the profession that those who are older than you have more valuable thoughts, sentiments, opinions and ideas to share. Trust the sound of your own voice. And the more you use it, the more will you grow to trust it, so just embrace that."

Dawn Ashbacher:

"Build real relationships with people. Both people we are similar to and people that are different. Get support for yourself. It is hard to do this alone. And find a way to create a safe space where you can really talk about your challenges and your successes. Remember that you are important and that you have a lot to offer and learn how to be able to offer your support to key leaders."

Joe McRae

"Be the light. Be part of the positive changes you want to see in your community. Endeavor to pursue internships, mentoring programs, fellowship opportunities- the ICMA local government fellowship opportunity, and amazing opportunity that I think has added a lot to the profession in terms of diversity, gender, race-huge things of that nature. Be bold enough, have enough confidence in your voice to pursue those opportunities, and to be at that table when communities are making these big decisions."

Kent Wyatt:

"Raise awareness by sharing your experience. It seems simple, but especially with race, people are reluctant to share those experiences…Challenge your organizations. Challenge your MPA program, your employer, your professional organizations by asking them specifically what they are doing to encourage diversity and inclusion…Challenge these groups about what specifically they are doing and be willing to pitch in to be part of the solution."

Pat Martel: 

"Talking about it is one thing, doing something about it is something completely different…change only comes when we really act with intentionality on the things we say are important and that’s why I believe that in order to move the needle in the profession, we have to be constantly vigilant about expanding opportunities, opening up the party for everyone, then inviting everyone to dance, and we have to be the leaders in that. And those leaders include all of our students, because you represent the future, and you have to be courageous.

I offer a challenge to be courageous. Because to deal with issues of diversity and inclusiveness in local government or even in your programs, your MPA programs, the universities you are attending, things need to evolve but they won’t without intentionality. So you have to be courageous and really push others to be intentional in the way that they approach expanding diversity and inclusiveness. Because it is so important that everyone has a voice and that all perspectives are represented…We have to have all voices and perspectives at that party and let everybody dance."


The speakers and students left the call with a renewed sense of dedication to this important work. We will continue finding ways to engage our student chapters in these conversations and challenge you to be the change we want to see within the profession.

You can listen to the entire call here. The panelists have all made themselves available to any students who would like to continue this conversation or ask them specific questions. 

ICMA Student Chapters: Increasing Diversity and Inclusiveness within the Local Government Management Profession from ICMA on Vimeo.

Any questions, ideas, or suggestions? Please let me know: Christa Rainwater at

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