#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Public Servants Facing ‘Wicked Problems’

Over the next few weeks, we have been featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Winter Conference. Our final #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Vincent Roberts, Budget & Management Analyst with Guilford County.

In a year like no other, public servants deserved a conference like no other, and that is exactly what NCLGBA was able to deliver with the 2020 Virtual Winter Conference.  From a global pandemic to social justice, 2020 was a year of many firsts for the public sector.  Many of these instances proved to be extremely difficult topics to not only discuss in a professional manner, but also to willingly address directly.  In the 2020 Winter Virtual Conference, NCLGBA showed its willingness to address such issues regardless of how uncomfortable the topic at hand.

Maurice Jones, Town Manager of Chapel Hill, led attendees through his own experience with racial strife as it pertained to a topic that seemed all too abundant in 2020, Confederate monuments.  Mr. Jones highlighted the difficulties that he was able to lead the City of Charlottesville and Town of Chapel Hill through during his time as City Manager in the presentation “Leading Through Adversity.”  From Klan rallies to domestic terrorism, Mr. Jones described the intricacies involved in our jobs as public servants and how the public will look to us for leadership during these trying times.  As public servants it is imperative to remember that we serve the greater good and must approach each situation with fairness regardless of our own personal beliefs.  Mr. Jones also reminded attendees that at its core our profession is based in politics, and this will always play a role in every situation especially those that strike a chord with the public.  It is important to remember that we serve at the pleasure of elected officials, yet do not need to sacrifice morals or integrity in order to be viewed as successful public servants.

The success of public servants is almost certainly defined by their willingness to address these difficult topics, and that was reinforced by three high-level NC budget representatives in the presentation “Racial Equity and Social Justice in Budgeting.”  Patrice Toney, Budget & Evaluation Director for the City of Winston-Salem; Federico Rios, Assistant Director of the Office of Equity, Mobility, and Immigrant Integration for the City of Charlotte; and Tony McDowell, Assistant Finance Director for Budget & Forecasting for the City of Asheville, guided attendees through the intricacies of tackling social injustice by way of budgeting.  The presentation did a tremendous job of showing how one can take theoretical solutions and apply them to real world examples in ways that truly address the problems at hand.  The speakers were able to show attendees that regardless of the amount of a jurisdiction’s budget, there are always tools and ways in which we as budget professionals can directly or indirectly influence our region to become a better place.  Budget professionals have a great impact on the organizations in which they work, and the ability to aid things such as racial equity should not be undervalued.

NCLGBA conferences are always a time of professional networking and fellowship, but the 2020 Winter Virtual Conference proved another key aspect of these conferences.  The fact of the matter is that even when we cannot gather in person, we still have each other’s backs and are constantly looking at ways to improve and address the difficult topics throughout society.

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Benefits of Engaging; Benefits of People

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Brian Pahle, Assistant City Manager, City of Hendersonville.

In 2015, on a recommendation from Megan Powell, I attended my first NCLGBA conference.  My first survey response was that I felt like people were not welcoming, especially the people with yellow ribbons on their nametags (Board Members! – looking at you Steve H. and Justin A.).  By my second conference I started to get more involved during sessions and was then encouraged by Josh Edwards to start moderating.  Little did I know what that entailed.  I had started getting my legs under me when Josh then asked me to apply for an “At-Large Representative” position on the Board.  Fast forward many e-mail communications with speakers, nights out getting dinner and frequenting a bar or two, stressing about speaking in front of an audience, running in a group 5k, interacting with vendors, and expanding my network, later…I now sit in the background working with a team of extraordinarily talented and compassionate individuals trying to execute [ed. note: succeeding at executing!] a second virtual conference.

The past five years engaging in this organization have been some of the most transformative of my early career.  The impact the Association, Board, and people involved have had on my life is probably unknown to many.  It is also probably unknown to many, how much of an impact engaging with one another can have on your own personal development.  For example, I would never have the friendship with my good friend Paarth Mehta that I have now, if it were not for engaging.  Nor would I have a couple great pictures of Paarth and I superimposed on bees or compared with greats like Bob Costas and DJ Khaled (a previously unimagined dynamic duo rivaling that of Batman and Robin).  I now have so many uplifting memories with so many new friends and professionals.

This benefit in my life was heightened and highlighted during this extremely difficult year.  I could not help but feel so fortunate and introspective while watching Heather Curry kick-off and lead our virtual conference.  Even though we were all apart, the impacts of great friends and mentors was palpable in my living room the past week.  Although I was Zoom fatigued, I look back on these past five years with the Association, and smile because I would not have the knowledge, confidence, and most importantly friendships that I do now if it were not for those little nudges to engage.  Do not let a chance to engage pass you by.  Trust me, I wrote that NCLGBA was not engaging in my first survey response, and then was forced to engage in ways I never could have imagined.

A huge thank you to my good friend Heather Curry for raising the bar as a master of virtual ceremony (MVC) and sharing her amazing talents and knowledge with me along the way.

#HC-MVC

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: More Than Spreadsheets – The Human Side of Budgeteers

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Janice Hillanbrand, Budget and Management Analyst, Forsyth County.

“…looking at our members as whole people, and not just budget professionals, was something that was really important to me while planning this year’s conference.”

This was a line spoken by Heather Curry, our third Vice President, during the opening of the session “Stress and Wellness in the COVID-19 Local Government Workplace.” It was a powerful line, one that stuck with me both as a conference attendee and as a Board Member, on the thought that went into this conference and the external factors surrounding it. As someone who was part of the planning discussions for this year’s winter conference, I participated in the discussions for more holistic programming. At the time of conference planning, I would not have predicted that this kind of programming would be delivered at the peak of the pandemic (so far) in this state and nation, nor would I have been able to predict how badly I would have needed such holistic programming at the time of the conference.

I am not saying anything new or revolutionary when I say that all of the cumulative events that have occurred in 2020 have led to a hard year – not just for local government professionals, but for all of us as people. At this point it’s an accepted fact, one that we laugh and make jokes as a society about how to cope. 2020 has been a year of isolation, separation, and loss for us all. Whether it’s been choosing to work from and stay at home for our coworkers’ and loved ones’ protection; watching the reactions (or non-reactions) of those around us to the continued racial injustices and inequities bred into our society and its institutions; or the rhetoric flung between neighbors during the election – 2020 is a year that has constantly put neighbors, coworkers, friends and family both physically and mentally at odds. Despite the rhetoric you follow, this has been a shared experience felt by all. It is a never-ending battle that has taken a toll on my mental health, as well as the mental health of those around me.

The resources and takeaways that I have from this conference go beyond improving my skills as a budget professional; they are lessons that I can use to grow as a person. There were, of course, enlightening and engaging sessions related directly to me as a budgeteer – the opening economic outlook, how Charlotte is tackling climate change, monitoring financial condition, and selecting the right visualizations. Attending a conference continues to be a great resource for a young Budget Analyst like myself, not just for networking opportunities but to learn valuable lessons from my neighbors and colleagues. From each of these sessions I was able to hear and hold onto important, tangible information to bring back to better my work, effective immediately.

The sessions that have stayed with me and that have lived in my thoughts rent-free since the conference ended are not those that just impact me as a professional, but those that impact my personal self too. Attending the session on stress and wellness not only gave me tips on how to manage the personal stress I have been having, but gave me a much-needed assurance that I am not alone and that we truly are all just trying to make it one day at a time together. “Leading through Adversity” taught me that no matter how much you think you have prepared, there are some events you can never be fully ready for. What matters in those moments is how you respond and respecting your personal integrity before outsider opinions. The introduction to mindfulness gave me the much-needed reminder once again that despite how overwhelmed you are, how defeating any particular day may be, there should always be time for self-care, no matter how small.

Leaving this year’s conference, I am going into the new year with a renewed hope for my colleagues and myself. Going into 2021, my personal goals are to learn to give myself more grace, not to harbor on my perceived failures, and to continue to learn to trust and have confidence in myself and my abilities as a person and a Budget Analyst. My hope, for anyone who struggles with perfectionism and anxiety as I do, is that you find the same as we all embark into the new year together. Luckily for all of us, we are part of an association that has provided the perfect materials on where to start.

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

For the past few weeks, we have been featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference. Our final #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Janet Schafer, Budget Manager, Gaston County.

As I listened to Vice President Brian Pahle kick off the 2020 Summer Virtual Conference with a reminder to step out of our comfort zones, I began to reflect on the ways local government budget professionals have been forced out of our comfort zones since the last conference.

Michael Walden started the Economic Update with a discussion on the uncharted territories of this “mandated recession” with a potential recovery occurring in 2023. This session brought back memories from just a few months prior when budget departments across the state began updating revenue projections without recent or historic data for guidance. Instead, we looked to our peers for guidance, many of whom we have built connections with at these conferences.

Next, I attended Norma Houston’s Purchasing with COVID-19 Funds session. This session helped me obtain a better grasp on how my own agency can grapple with the friction caused by varying levels of government fiscal policy in combination with the urgency of trying to protect a community during a global pandemic.

The Questica session reiterated the importance of high-performing technology and software at a time when offices and in-person meetings are dangerous, and teleworking is the new normal. Our standard budget procedures were completely disrupted at the most critical point in the budget process. I am still unsure how we all survived this disruption but Questica was able to turn “surviving” into “thriving” for several of our local government budgeting peers.

Lastly, the NCLM’s Legislative Update reminded us all just how unfortunate the timing of this global pandemic was for budget professionals. The NCLM was, and continues to be, an important source of guidance for North Carolina government agencies at all levels. At a time when public health and the economy are at odds, the NCLM keeps us up-to-date on legislation and policy surrounding both of these topics in an ever-changing environment.

My takeaway from this virtual conference is that we, as local government budget professionals, are extremely fortunate to have an extensive list of resources to guide us (or commiserate with us) during a time of discomfort. Our universities and their experts, our partnering agencies, and our peers provide us with a solid foundation that allowed us to navigate these discomforts a bit more comfortably.  So whether it’s a mandated recession, ever-changing fiscal policy, a disrupted budget process, or even the “Pahlenator” hashtag, we can handle any scary thing that comes our way!

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Engaging and Learning Through “Tele-everything”

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Heather Curry, Budget and Evaluation Analyst, City of Winston-Salem.

Despite looking very different this year, the morning of the NCLGBA conference still held that same electric energy and excitement that I have come to associate with these events. While only one day and held entirely online, I knew I was still in for a day of learning and I was excited to see colleagues from around the state on the computer screen and Twitter timeline.

The day started with the Economic Update, presented by Dr. Michael Walden from NC State. He described the current recession as a “mandated recession,” meaning that it was caused by our need to distance due the pandemic, and not by an excess and subsequent correction in some area of the economy. Theoretically, this should make recovery easier – just undo the mandate and things will rebound – however, the unknowns of the virus (how exactly does it spread, what activities are safest, when will a vaccine be available, will it be effective, etc.) complicate the recovery. The projections he shared showed it taking until 2023 for North Carolina’s GDP to reach pre-COVID levels. In the meantime, our economy is likely to undergo a shift to “tele-everything” – telemedicine, telework, teleschooling – which could result in people reexamining choices about where to live – if you’re engaged in tele-everything, do you need to live in the big city, or can you still access those resources while living in a rural area?

Next up were the concurrent sessions. I attended Dr. Kara Millonzi’s session on budget ordinances. Having attended Dr. Millonzi’s Introduction to Local Government Finance course at the School of Government, I was expecting a nice refresher, but not necessarily any specific new knowledge from this session. However, my expectations were exceeded when we got into the final section on interim budgets. Essentially, if a local government cannot pass a full budget and tax levy by the July 1 deadline, the Fiscal Control Act does allow for limited interim budgets. The tax rate still needs to be set by August 1, however, so no ongoing continuing resolutions for this level of government! For local governments facing extreme uncertainty in their budgets that could prevent them from having a complete budget for a longer period of time, Dr. Millonzi suggested using a hybrid interim/full budget model, described in the image below.

After concurrent sessions and lunch, the conference picked up with the business meeting. Along with the usual items – celebrating new CBEOs and promotions, thanking outgoing board members, and welcoming new faces – our VPs also shared a statement from the Board expressing the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and highlighting past and ongoing efforts in these areas. The full statement is in the image below.

The afternoon rounded out with two more general sessions. First, The Quest for a Balanced Budget highlighted the ways budget development – especially in a pandemic – is supported by technology. As the panel cities worked to adjust to developing their budgets remotely, ever-changing revenue projections, and other pandemic challenges, they relied on technology to engage residents, run scenarios, and validate data. Even with all our technology however, most offices are still building budget documents essentially by hand. Additionally, documents remain a moment-in-time snapshot, rather than living documents. These areas could be the next great innovations in budgeting.

 

Like many discussions recently, the final session – Legislative Updates – had a somewhat different tone than prior conferences as much of the update focused on revenue changes and resulting COVID relief legislation and ongoing advocacy. Other legislative highlights from the short session include updates for NC DOT funding, support for struggling water and wastewater systems, regulations for robotic package delivery, and funding for workforce housing.

While the conference format may have changed, it was still a time to learn, engage the brightest minds in budget, and – in this moment of tele-everything – as close as we can get to seeing our colleagues from across the state. And that makes the first-ever virtual NCLGBA conference a success in my book.

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Adapting to the New Normal

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Janice Hillanbrand, Budget and Management Analyst, Forsyth County.

Going into the 2020 Summer Conference, while I was hopeful and optimistic, I truly did not know what to expect from the organization’s first virtual conference. I had many questions – will the sessions be as impactful and instructional on a virtual platform? How will the Q&A sessions work on a virtual platform with so many people tuning in? Will the sessions be held on Zoom calls with all of the attendees awkwardly staring at each other on the screen?

The Summer 2020 Conference exceeded all of my expectations. I was deeply impressed with the virtual platform that was created for the conference, as well as the format of the general and concurrent sessions. I know planning a virtual conference in the short time that was available was no easy feat and I have endless respect for Paarth, Brian, and the rest of the NCLGBA Board for being able to do so seamlessly.

As to be expected, the underlying topic in each session was COVID-19 and the various responses we all took. During our legislative update, Chris Nida made a poignant statement when he said that the COVID-19 crisis kicked off at the worst possible time for all of us: in March when most Budget Offices are in the thick of Budget preparation. It left very little time for Budget Offices to get accurate projections of sales tax impacts- a vital revenue source for all local governments in the state. The uncertainty still continues, as Michael Walden pointed out in our first session: Economic Update. There will be continued effects of teleworking and prolonged closure that we are yet to see.

The session that left the most impact on me was the ‘What’s Your New Normal?’ concurrent session. All of the presenters talked about the importance of having adaptable, effective and compassionate leadership during times of crisis. All of the presenters spoke about the importance of listening to and being responsive of different voices, being compassionate towards those in your organization and your community, and trusting those around you to do their job and do it well. The message of this session (and the fantastic speakers) left me motivated and encouraged, despite the continued uncertainty that we all continue to face.

The overall theme of this year’s conference has proven to be the importance of being adaptable and responsive as budget offices and professionals. We work in a profession of the unknown and uncertain, and this year has clearly reminded us of just that. Despite this, it is important to keep effective leadership and work practices and to do them with compassion for the communities you serve. It will be interesting to see how this pandemic continues to effect the state as we continue through this fiscal year, as well as how it will play into planning for the Winter Conference. The NCLGBA leadership team and moderators did a spectacular job planning such a moving conference. I already cannot wait to see what is in store for this year’s upcoming Winter Conference!

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Checking the Boxes for a Successful Conference

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our third #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Rusty Mau, Winter 2019 Conference Scholarship Recipient and Budget Analyst, Buncombe County

Consider the last conference you attended (other than the NCLGBA winter conference).  After the conference, you probably received a survey that asked, “Would you recommend this conference to a colleague?”  The answer is not always “strongly agree”.  When I think about the NCLGBA winter conference, I “strongly agree” that every budget professional in North Carolina should attend!

The conference started on a high note, with NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver sharing why planning is critical in the 21st Century.  He discussed the “clash of values” between the 20th and 21st centuries and encouraged us to consider the importance of density in our communities.  The family unit of yesterday is not the family unit of tomorrow, Silver shared, as an estimated 25 million single family homes will be on the market by 2030 with no buyer.  How will a public trend towards density align with the powerful forces of NIMBYism?  What are the tax implications of density?  These questions came to my mind as Silver helped us peek into the future.

Throughout the conference, I came back to the question of “why?”  In The Value Beyond Strategy and Data, Mary Vigue with the City of Raleigh said Raleigh’s goal with innovation and performance management is to empower people to ask why.  In Jeff Richardson’s session on High Performance Leadership, we learned you must understand why managers, boards, and colleagues are motivated and successful in order to be successful yourself.  In the screening of All the Queen’s Horses, we saw what can happen when we don’t ask “why” when something doesn’t add up.  For local government to continue to improve, all employees must be empowered to both ask why and understand why.  This mutual understanding of why transcends innovation, routine operations, and even ethical behavior.

Before I “strongly agree” to recommend a conference, I must be able to check two boxes: solid content and ample time for valuable networking (plus, of course, good food).  While I thoroughly enjoyed the content, the networking opportunities were the highlight of our time.  In Buncombe County, for example, we are drafting a new grants policy.  I was able to ask several jurisdictions about their practices and provide a firm foundation for our first draft.  The conference also included opportunities for speed coaching, budget-focused networking, and informal conversation.  I am no “master networker”, but I truly appreciated the opportunity to learn from other attendees.  The diversity of expertise among attendees made the conference impactful.

When I reflect on the NCLGBA winter conference, I think about my motivation to attend.  First, I wanted to learn more about budgeting in North Carolina.  Second, I wanted to gain valuable insights that I could use in my work.  Third, I wanted to build connections that will help us build an even better budget.  All of these have been accomplished and more.

So, when I ask “why” I attended the conference, I realize my conference experience was a success.  I strongly encourage other budget professionals to reflect on why you attended and consider attending a future NCLGBA conference.  As I mentioned above, I “strongly agree” all of my colleagues attend!

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Innovation and Change

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Mimi Clemens, Winter 2019 Conference Scholarship Recipient and MPA Candidate, UNC Chapel Hill

This December, I was able to attend the 2019 NCLGBA Winter Conference in Asheville, North Carolina with a scholarship from NCLGBA. Overall, the conference was a wonderful experience! Each day of the conference there was a general session in the morning followed by concurrent sessions with usually three sessions to choose from. At the end of Wednesday and Thursday, there were networking opportunities with roundtables and a happy hour. The conference concluded with the Economic Update and a raffle. I had a wonderful time meeting local government employees in different stages in their careers, including Budget, Finance, Performance, and Budget and Management Analysts, Senior Analysts, and Directors as well as City, Town, and County Managers. It was great meeting Analysts at the beginning of their careers in local government. This was greatly beneficial to me as a soon-to-be graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s MPA program this May. It was enlightening hearing from them their experiences and advice after graduating from MPA programs within the state and what ways MPA programs translate well with the local government profession and lessons learned.

Three of my favorite sessions of the Winter Conference were: The Value of Planning in the 21st Century: What’s Next? presented by Mitchell Silver, High Performance Leadership: Connecting to Your Manager, Supervisor, and Your Board presented by Jeff Richardson, and Public Engagement Tools to Reach a 21st Century Audience presented by Ming-Chun Lee and Scott Correll. I was drawn to all three of these sessions due to their innovative nature. In Mitchell Silver’s presentation, the changing demographics of America will create new norms, expectations, and needs from communities for local governments to address. Jeff Richardson’s presentation encouraged self-awareness as public leaders to be able to understand elected officials, residents, and staff’s viewpoints when addressing issues in the community. The test we took during Richardson’s session was eye-opening by showing how the viewpoint and expectations of the community, staff, and elected officials can shape organizational culture and performance of the organization when addressing issues in the community. Lastly, Ming-Chun Lee and Scott Correll’s presentation on public engagement in the 21st century was fascinating. Correll discussed how the City of Charlotte’s Urban Design Center created a board game as a new way to engage with the public. This started a conversation in the community on what city residents would like to see Charlotte become in the next 20 years. With the many different paths Charlotte residents could choose in the game, the city was able to gain insight into what priorities the community values and how the community would like the city to manage growth. And Lee used new geospatial technologies to create an app that would augment reality for users on their smart phone. This app allowed for residents to see what neighborhoods in Charlotte looked like in the past as well as changing demographic trends.

I am grateful to be given this opportunity to attend the 2019 NCLGBA Winter Conference. With the new year, 2020 will bring new challenges and solutions for local governments. It is my hope that I can take what I learned from these sessions and apply it towards future challenges that may arise.

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Building Connections to Increase Meaning

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Ellenore Holbrook, Budget Analyst, City of Asheville

The 2019 Winter Conference addressed a wide variety of topics throughout its sessions, but I found one dominant theme between them all: connecting with one another.

I am not talking about connecting in the formal, shake hands and talk about the weather sense of networking. Rather, talking about the differences in our experiences, acknowledging them, and learning from one another.

I first noticed this theme during the opening session with Mitchell Silver who discussed how to plan for the 21st century. He spoke about changing demographics at the local, state, and national levels and how they would impact the challenges our communities face over time. What struck me was when he spoke openly about the different generations, their attributes, and how we are able to learn from one another to better support our organizations. As the demographics of NCLGBA change, we continue to learn new ideas from one another and push ourselves to be better.

The theme of connection continued throughout a number of sessions, including the panel on the Recession. As someone who was in high school during the Great Recession, I do not have a clear idea of how it impacted our organizations. By being able to hear from those who experienced it firsthand, we are able to gain an understanding of how we can better address the next recession.

Finally, my favorite session (and I promise it was not because I helped plan it!) was Speed Coaching. Entirely centered on connecting with those in your field, it provided a space for those beginning their budget career to ask questions and listen to those who have a wide breadth of experience. With the time constraint, it pushed participants to ask valuable questions quickly, rather than attempting to make small talk. The best part was after the session officially ended, most individuals remained in the room to continue their conversations and meet others.

Building connections with one another is important but also difficult. It can be hard to get over the awkwardness of meeting new people, asking potentially difficult questions, and making yourself vulnerable in recognizing what you do not know. This conference provided opportunities for everyone to open up, learn about something new, and connect with others in a valuable and mutually beneficial way.

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Leadership on Display

Over the last few weeks, we have been featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference.

Our final #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Ross Hatton, 2019 Summer Conference Scholarship Recipient, UNC-Chapel Hill Master of Public Administration Candidate, and Budget and Management Services Intern, Wake County.

When I first applied for the NCLGBA conference scholarship, I had no expectation that I would be lucky enough to receive it. I am deeply thankful to the NCLGBA for giving me the opportunity to learn from its passionate, creative, and talented members who are constantly striving to serve and improve each of their communities.

As I sat down to write this recap, I ran into the problem of having too many sessions to choose from. Whether it was Brandon Juhaish’s Budget Monitoring Report – The Future is the Past, Rebecca Jackson’s Creating a High Performance Culture – Engaged Employees Transforming Communities, or one of the many other engaging panels and sessions, I was impressed by the knowledge and ingenuity of the conference’s many presenters and attendees. However, I found myself particularly struck by Professor Rick Morse’s Lead from Where You Are by Encouraging the Heart, given the many ways in which I saw leadership during the conference.

His session, nestled in the middle of the conference, was an earnest discussion of what it means to be a leader and a necessary reminder that leadership is “everybody’s business”. I have heard many times how management and leadership are fundamentally different concepts, but I have also often felt that these differences can be difficult to communicate and conceptualize. Professor Morse helped remedy this by offering the following five key behaviors of leaders:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire the vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

As someone in the early stages of his public service career, I am grateful for this reminder that leadership is an opportunity for all of us, regardless of position or experience. I have been lucky to witness empowering and innovative leadership in both my public service experience and at the conference, which has raised the bar for how I aspire to serve my community. It became clear to me, through the Past President Panel: The Bat-Signal has been answered! in particular, that the NCLGBA cares deeply about creating what Professor Morse called a “spirit of community” by celebrating successes, sharing stories, and forging connections.

As Professor Morse concluded his session, he left each of us with a blank letter and encouraged us to take the time to thank someone. We work in a time of unparalleled access to information and data, which often requires us to move quickly in order to be responsive to changing needs or priorities. In light of this, it can be easy to forget to slow down and recognize the people around us for their support, mentorship, and leadership. I appreciated this discussion of leadership and the importance of not forgetting to recognize the people who support us.

I was absolutely thrilled by my first time at the NCLGBA conference. From hearing how other people think about common problems to seeing the novel policies and practices being put into place in other jurisdictions, I was blown away by the activities and leadership of the NCLGBA membership. I look forward to continuing to learn from this community, and I hope to be a part of fostering its growth in the future.