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Blogs / Leadership {RE}imagined / Want to Achieve More in Public Service? Work With the Community

Want to Achieve More in Public Service? Work With the Community

Dr. Allan Fromme said the following: "People have been known to achieve more as a result of working with others than against them." I would say this applies to local governments working with citizens in their communities to make it a better place. It could also mean working together with other local government professionals (staff). Either way, you can achieve more by working well with others. 

So what wisdom do local government professionals proffer on achievement in public service? ICMA decided to ask several local government professionals questions surrounding public service and its importance. We found that the local government professionals who provided us with a quote related their greatest achievements not to personal goals, but to working with and improving the community.


In 2004 I completed a Healing Field project which I thought was extremely positive for the entire community. Each flag in our field represented a life lost on September 11, 2001 or in the War on Terrorism that followed. Three weeks later a lady came in to thank the Mayor for the project and give him a painting she made of the Healing Field. He gave me the credit and when I went to accept the painting she hugged me and said, “You don’t understand, I was about to commit suicide and something in that Healing Field motivated me to live. I am alive today because of that project.” To this day I keep a photo of that field in my office as a reminder that despite the occasional challenges we often do not realize the true impact of our work.


I have discovered over the years that what makes me the happiest in terms of achievement is planting the idea, on a new projects, from an initial call on grant availability, to gaining the funding and design support of the Commission and the community, for example on a new Civic Center on why we need to build a facility; to the ground-breaking, to the grand opening.  Simply put, it is having a lasting, tangible impact on a community; which could be resolving a community concern on beachside densities, or gaining approval of a new community redevelopment district for a fading main roadway corridor.  Its having a dream, and seeming it become a reality, as a CM, that makes for the biggest achievements in public service.


One of my biggest achievements thus far in my career was being appointed as the 2016 Chair of the Northwest Municipal Conference Local Government Communicators Committee (NWMC LGCC). In this leadership role, I get to facilitate training and information sharing among the public information officers of the 44 municipalities within the conference.

Public information is a critical ingredient for efficient and well-functioning municipalities, as it promotes transparency, encourages citizen participation, builds community pride, encourages growth, attracts potential employees and residents, encourages growth, and improves service delivery. Our citizens should be informed on how their tax dollars are being spent and what we are doing to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts and leaner-run organizations, municipalities with trained communications director or public information officers are becoming few and far between. Rather, municipalities are tasking untrained employees in various positions to figure out how to effectively communicate with stakeholders and the media.

The NWMC LGCC provides those with little to no government communications experience an opportunity to interact and learn from those who are veteran public information officers. By combining our resources, we are able to foster a more productive, mutually beneficial relationship with our combined 1.3 million residents. I am very honored that, although still very early on in my career, I’ve been given the opportunity to help make a difference in not only my community, but the several communities around me.


One of my greatest achievements was working with the community on the East Maple Street Reconstruction project.  Maple Street is a major collector coming into the central business district but it also passed through a historic section of the community.  Funding was secured for the reconstruction but design issues, mixing the residential and historic atmosphere with a road capable of handling heavy commercial traffic was an issue.  The Village Council, Public Works Director Ken Poff and Rowe Engineering came together utilizing a traffic calming approach.  Roadway width was important for large truck turning radius but the wider lanes encouraged increased vehicle speeds.  Our design solution was extra wide concrete curb and gutters and a narrower, 12 foot wide asphalt driving surface.  The width accommodated trucks but the narrow driving lane lowered vehicle speeds.  It was very rewarding to be part of a design team that was able to satisfy community needs.

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