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"On Point" Quotes from 8 Women Local Government Leaders


Get wisdom on prioritizing your work, leadership, being a first-time manager, and more from women in the profession. All quotes have been pulled from PM magazine's monthly column, On Point.

On Finding Your First Job in Local Government

from Rebecca Vance, city manager, Cayce, SC

“Be willing to accept such positions as internships, entry-level planner, research analyst special-project coordinator, and jobs in small communities in order to gain experience.

The public sector is just like the private sector in the fact that you have to work your way up. There is no shortcut to the top.

Do the tasks, projects, or initiatives that no one else wants to do because you will have gained the knowledge that no one else in your organization was willing to gain.

Be like a sponge and absorb all of the information you can on as many diverse projects as you can get. To be a manager, you need to be a jack of all trades.

You will be faced with a wider and more varied range of things then you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams, and you never know when you will be able to use that one nugget of information you learned when doing that one task or taking that one position that no one else wanted.”


On Prioritizing Your Work

From Andrea Phillips, Town Administrator, Mancos, Colorado

“…I return calls and e-mails within 24 hours or less. The most pressing situations get pushed to the forefront of my attention, while less-urgent concerns are sometimes delayed for another day or two. While I may spend a good portion of a day working on an unplanned issue, I try to always keep the long game in mind. Setting task timelines or benchmarks is helpful.

For longer-term prioritization, I rely on written to-do lists and other visual management tools. A simple chart in my office displays tasks on Post-it notes. As the task moves from "not started" to "in progress" and finally “done,” I can quickly and easily track the status of these projects...”


On the Best Public Safety Management Advice Ever Given

from Linda Cochrane, City Manager, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

“Do the right thing. It was our guiding principle at the city of Edmonton when we responded to the wildfire evacuation of the city of Fort McMurray this past May.

Some 80,000 individuals were forced to flee with little notice. As the nearest major city, we set up a reception center and provided essential services.

We were prepared to meet the need. But our not-for-profit partners didn’t have the staff or experience to do the same. We made the decision to step out beyond our legislated role to help the not-for-profit societies set up warehouses to manage donations and care for rescued pets.

Residents don’t see the divisions between governmental and nongovernmental organizations. We are here to serve, and in emergencies, we do what is necessary.”


On Advice for the First-Time Manager

From Mona Miyasato, County Executive Officer, Santa Barbara, California

“As soon as you can, form a personal team to support your needs. It can be a combination of your partner or spouse, a good friend, past mentors, professional coach, and others with whom you are close, but it should be people outside your organization.

Going into the No. 1 seat requires a greater demand on your personal as well as professional life.

As you make this adjustment, you need people who can give you objective feedback; with whom you can discuss personal issues that you would not want to share with people in your organization; and who can offer emotional and empathetic support in difficult situations. There can be many of those.”


On Achieving Social and Cultural Vitality

From Rebecca Fleury, City Manager, Battle Creek, Michigan

"...Defining our culture of vitality involves a multitude of community conversations to determine community themes. To date, those themes include providing one-stop-shopping for city services; engaging in a variety of events that showcase our ethnically diverse and artistically talented residents; encouraging and supporting a sense of place; reinvigorating the physical and built environment for all ages; ensuring safe neighborhoods; having an active and lively downtown; and providing fair and equitable service...."

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On Favorite Leadership Advice ever given

From Caryn Gardner-Young, City Manager, Parkland, Florida

“What advice did I receive? From the funny (make sure you put on the same color socks each day), to the serious (understand the politics of your organization). But the best leadership advice I received was from my mentor and that was to be open.

He had worked in government for a long time and had been through many difficult situations. He implored me to be open to new ideas, to communication, and to just being open.

I took this to heart by having an open-door policy, and I am fortunate that employees take advantage of it. We have cry sessions when employees are having personal issues, we have laughs when we cannot believe what a resident just did, and we have serious times when problems need solutions.

I feel the employees are comfortable in coming to see me because I do not sit at my desk. To be a leader, you need to be visible. I am lucky that my organization is fairly small so I can visit offices and employees in the field on a regular basis. That familiarity allows employees to know me and for me to know them.

It always amazes me when I see a smile from an employee when I ask about his or her family, especially when I use family names. The value of employee support to me as the face and leader of the organization cannot be measured.”


On Being an Effective Manager

From Stephanie Monroe Tillerson, City Manager, Kiawah island, South Carolina

“As long as the council has not locked me out of city hall and my office, I am being an effective manager. On a serious note, I meditate. I do not meditate daily, but I do try to exhale and reflect on my week’s/month’s work with the goal of gut checking what I did right and wrong.

I continue to master my strengths and where I fall short, understand and improve on those weaknesses. At the same time, I try to make sure the right people are in place who will supplement those weaknesses in a positive and proactive way.

Finally, I go to the residents of Woodruff every Friday. Through social media, I have “talk-back Friday’s with the city manager” on Facebook throughout the day. I swing open the doors to discuss whatever is on residents’ minds.”


On Getting Your “Mojo” Back

From Helga Reidel, Former Chief Administrative Officer, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; President & CEO, EnWin Utilities

“Serving as a senior leader or CAO certainly has its ups and downs. Administrators are looked to for advice, often in times of crisis or controversy. It’s a job, but we take it personally because we care about our communities, the residents we serve, and the people we work with.

During times of trial or tribulation, I find that words of recognition, appreciation and encouragement, especially from the mayor, city council, and colleagues can go a long way to restore my enthusiasm and get me back on track.

Failing that, the support from my husband, my adult sons, and my talented friends help to keep me grounded and recharged to face another day of challenge and success.

After all is said and done, inspiration must come from me, and I remind myself to appreciate my good fortune in the job I have and the great people I work with.”


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