#NCLGBA18 Recap Series: “This is How We Do It”

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2018 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA18 Conference Recap comes from Zach Lewis, MPA Candidate, North Carolina State University and 2018 Winter Conference Scholarship Recipient.

“This is How We Do It” – Key Takeaways from the Winter 2018 NCLGBA Conference from an Aspiring Local Government Leader

As a current first year MPA student looking to begin a career in public budgeting and finance, this was my first formal conference attendance specific to local government. I was incredibly humbled to have been selected as one of the scholarship recipients for the conference and will forever be thankful to those involved in presenting me with his opportunity.

When I arrived at the conference, my initial observation was that there were way more people in attendance than I had anticipated, most of whom were returning conference attendees. However, I was very warmly welcomed and quickly made a part of the NCLGBA family.

Located at the Carolina Inn in Pinehurst, NC, the venue and setting of the conference was beautiful – it was clear that the NCLGBA Board and the conference planning team had worked tirelessly to make this conference happen.

The welcoming environment, the well-planned conference, the “family” atmosphere, and the diversity of conference presentations spoke one thing: North Carolina is an awesome place to work in local government.

Here are 3 of my takeaways from the conference:

1) Innovation is happening in North Carolina local governments.
Unfortunately, one of the common stereotypes discussed regarding public sector employees is that “not much gets done,” or that government workers are “very set in their ways.” However, two of my favorite conference sessions seemingly challenged these claims by presenting innovative ways they are changing their budget processes – Durham County, NC and the City of Durham, NC. In the first session, “Data Analytics: The Power of BI,” presenters demonstrated how their budget offices and other departments are utilizing a new tool, Microsoft Power BI, to greatly improve their data analysis and visualization techniques, moving further ahead than the classic Microsoft Excel and encouraging other local governments to consider it as well.

In the second session, “Policy Equity & Inclusion: Letting History and Community Voices Guide Institutional Choices,” community leaders in the city of Durham discussed how using history to understand present day disparities is vital to creating more equitable futures and to not repeat the same mistakes. In the discussion, the Mayor Pro Tempore of the City of Durham discussed how the city has adopted a participatory budget process for $2.4 million dollars, hosting numerous public input sessions across the entire city so citizens can provide input on how they wish to see the money spent. This is creating an equitable way for citizens of all backgrounds to have the opportunity to provide vital input.

2) Difficult, but necessary conversations are happening at NCLGBA.
Continuing with the same session which discussed participatory budgeting “Policy Equity & Inclusion: Letting History and Community Voices Guide Institutional Choices,” this session urged counties and municipalities that are facing local disparities or equity problems to actively work to holistically understand the problems by utilizing local history to consider “how did we get here?” By embracing these difficult challenges, by engaging in difficult and often uncomfortable conversations, by creating community dialogues, and by providing equal and equitable ways for all citizens to provide public input, local governments across the state can begin creating better futures for all of those represented.

In a separate session, “Leading Women – Perspectives in Leadership and Budget,” female local government leaders discussed the challenges that they face or have faced during their careers working in local government. By creating these dialogues, not only are the issues acknowledged, but they provide the framework and a platform to begin collectively working to combat these problems and begin shaping a more-inclusive, more-equal workplace. This session was closed with a call to action, urging everyone to continue thinking about how to improve, not only when prompted to think about it – “don’t let this session run concurrently, let it run continuously.”

3) Personal growth is paramount to professional growth.
Although this was a “budgeting” conference, not all sessions dealt with budgeting and local government. Rather, two sessions focused on another important area – personal growth, implicitly emphasizing by learning how to grow as a person, we will better grow as a professional.

In the opening conference session, psychologist Heather Lee introduced emotional intelligence (EQ) and illustrated why EQ matters to be a successful leader. Learning ways to become more EQ conscience and improving our EQ skills is arguably more important than IQ in the workplace, and with both of these, we can prepare ourselves for a successful, well-to-do career in public service. Ultimately, “IQ skills get us hired, EQ skills keep us going and moving up the ladder.”

In one of the final conference sessions, Dan Pliszka from the City of Charlotte and author of his new book Life is Great: Even if Your Boat Flips Over helped teach us how to find value and success in all aspects of our life, switching to the adage “work to live” rather than “live to work.” If we shift our focus from “waiting for the weekend so we can finally live,” Dan emphasized that we would lose out on the majority of our life. Rather, we should be “living” each day – finding the joys and pleasures in all that we do and make every day a day that we look forward to.

The Winter 2018 NCLGBA conference was an incredible experience for me, both personally and professionally. The networks created, the sessions attended, the ideas shared, the stories told, and the dialogues created all helped to solidify one thing – my biggest takeaway of all – North Carolina’s local government leaders are some of the best in the nation.

#NCLGBA18 Winter Conference Recap Series

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2018 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA18 Conference Recap comes from Taylor Floyd, Senior Budget Analyst, City of Asheville.

After a long, long walk down a hall covered with garland, poinsettias and pictures of golfers, we were greeted by Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Fiorillo. In welcoming conference attendees, she informed us that she had signed a resolution lifting the limit on what we could spend in Pinehurst. I tried to do my part for the local economy during our time in the Sandhills.

“Empathy is the engine of influence”

The conference got started in earnest with a session on emotional intelligence led by Heather Lee of Developmental Associates. Lots of good information in this session focused around how important behaviors and interpersonal skills are in determining the success of individuals, teams and organizations. Heather highlighted that you don’t have to be friends with your coworkers, but you should learn to empathize with them. One comment – that the personal items you have in your office send a message to others about what they engage you on – made me reassess the objects (or lack of objects) I have in my own office. Ironically, one of those objects is the book, Influencer, which Heather recommended. Maybe I should read it before someone tries to engage me on it.

The legislature is still busy

The legislative update reminded me of previous conferences as special sessions have continued late into the year and there’s rumors of interest in sales tax distribution changes. One change coming as part of disaster relief legislation is a new Office of Recovery and Resiliency in the Department of Public Safety. Also, new tier designations from the Department of Commerce were released in November.

Organizational flexibility = Work-life balance

The final general session of the day featured a panel of four women discussing their experiences navigating a career in local government. This session reinforced the earlier discussion of how important empathy can be, as the panelist noted the value of working in supportive, flexible, family-first organizations. I was especially impressed by the flexibility some smaller organizations are able to offer, although it was noted that change on big issues like race and gender can be slow no matter the size. The panel’s thoughts on paid parental leave reminded me of the “curb cut effect” that I’ve learned about through conversations around equity and inclusion. In short, while sidewalk curb cuts are essential to mobility for some of our most vulnerable populations (i.e., disabled persons), they also help parents with strollers, people making deliveries, and travelers with suitcases. As the panel noted, everyone has dependents, so maybe paid parental leave is just the next step towards a better balance for everyone.

“Accounting is just following the rules, there are no rules in budgeting”

Day two started off with John Fishbein from GFOA showing us a lot of dos and don’ts in revenue forecasting and budget document production. He hit us with some solid lines, including my personal favorite, “the purpose of working, I think, is to keep your job.” John also evangelized on one of my dislikes – switching from landscape to portrait in a budget document. Just don’t. One analogy I’m planning to recycle is that “grants are like coupons,” in that you still have to spend money. It might be a good deal, but that’s doesn’t mean you need to buy it.

The experts don’t always agree

Thursday’s general sessions continued after lunch with a discussion of affordable housing. My former Asheville coworker Jeff Staudinger led a lively overview of what exactly the affordable housing crisis looks like in North Carolina and identified a wide variety of tools local governments can utilize to address it. Julie Porter of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership showed us how several of those tools came together in Charlotte’s Brightwalk redevelopment. While the tools are innumerable, my takeaway was that they should be targeted based on the outcomes you want to see in your community. As our speakers noted, building wealth for citizens and ensuring long-term housing affordability can be at odds with each other, and there’s no one right answer when it comes to meeting this critical community need.

The government Rubik’s Cube

The day wrapped with a trio of Durhamites. After an overview of historic discrimination and exclusion from Bull City 150’s Mel Norton, Neighborhood Improvement Services Assistant Director James Davis and Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson gave us organizational and political perspectives on the City of Durham’s efforts to shape a more equitable future. James Davis had the memorable metaphor in this session, telling us about how he solved a Rubik’s Cube with a butter knife. “Sometimes,” James said, “you have to dismantle the system if you can’t fix it within the parameters of the game.”

“You have to have a scoreboard”

Our final day kicked off a much-needed thirty minutes later, as many of us spent the prior night singing our hearts out to karaoke classics. Charlotte’s Dan Pliszka shared some humor and motivational messages from his recently published book, Life is Great, Even When Your Boat Flips Over. His suggestions for how to find success? Have a life goals list written down, but be flexible with it. Add a “to don’t” list to your “to do” list. And finally, apply an “audit T” when you have something in your life that could be better. This will look familiar to you accountants.

Issue/Challenge/Problem Statement

List what is good about it

List what is bad about it

Look at what is on the bad side, and you’ll likely see some actionable steps that can be taken to make things better.

Recession in 2020?

NC State’s Michael Walden wrapped up the conference with an economic outlook. His message was similar to those in past conferences: growth continues to be positive, but this economic expansion is long in the tooth. On the positive side, North Carolina has seen better rural and middle income job growth, expanding the expansion to communities that were hardest hit and slowest to recover from the Great Recession. Some potential problems on the horizon include household and business debt, energy prices, interest rate policy, stock market volatility, the potential for a foreign economic shock, and the ongoing trade war.

Overall it was a fantastic conference with good speakers, great food (pizza!), and the best attendees. Thanks to the conference planners for all their hard work and to the conference sponsors for supporting our organization. Wishing everyone a pain-free budget process, and hope to see you in July!

Announcing the 2018 Winter Conference Scholarship Winners

The NCLGBA Board is pleased to announce two scholarship winners for the 2018 Winter Conference:

Zach Lewis
North Carolina State University MPA Candidate
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zlewis2

Dominique Walker, MPA
ICMA/NCACC Management Fellow, Bertie County
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominique-walker-mpa-a48182ba

Please take some time to welcome and congratulate them at the conference and to connect with them on social media!

Nominations Open for 2018 Vogt Award

Nominations for the 2018 A. John “Jack” Vogt Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Advancement of Local Government Budgeting and Evaluation are now open. This career award is the highest annual award presented by the North Carolina Local Government Budget Association (NCLGBA) to recognize individuals who have served during their careers as innovators and leaders in advancing budget and/or evaluation practices in North Carolina local government. In 2006, Dr. Jack Vogt became the first recipient of the award to honor his thirty-four year legacy as an innovator, teacher, mentor, and consummate student of local government budgeting and evaluation. 

Nominees must have a minimum of ten years of local government service in North Carolina. “Government service” is defined broadly as any profession that works in or with municipal, county, or other local government jurisdictions. Examples include budget/finance professionals, city/county managers, elected officials, academics, and local government financial consultants. 

Nomination applications and a list of previous award winners can be accessed on the award page. Completed nomination applications should be submitted via email to vogtaward@nclgba.org by 11:59pm on Friday, November 9, 2018. A committee from the NCLGBA Board will review the submissions and present the award at the 2018 Winter Conference during the Thursday luncheon on December 13th, at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, NC. If you have any questions about the nomination form or process, please feel free to contact NCLGBA President Stephen Hawryluk at stephenh@cityofws.org or (336) 747-7093. 

North Carolina has a strong, national reputation as a leader in local government budgeting and evaluation. Please take this opportunity to recognize those who have helped us earn this reputation and charted new paths for all of us to participate, learn from and benefit.

Final Draft of NCLGBA Strategic Plan Available for Review

The Board is pleased to present the final draft of the new NCLGBA strategic plan. The result of over nine months of work, the draft plan – complete with revised mission, vision, core values, and performance measures – came about as a result of a NCLGBA membership survey that went out in January and February. Member comments were the foundational element used to create the Strategic Plan.

We are now asking for your input! Please take a moment and review the work that has been done to date. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please send your thoughts to Justin Amos, Immediate Past President, or Steve Hawryluk, President, by Friday, November 16, 2018.

At the upcoming Winter Conference, the Board will host a concurrent session to share the plan in more detail. Formal board adoption of the strategic plan will also occur at the Winter Conference.

The Board would also like to thank Rebecca Jackson from the City of Fayetteville for assisting with the creation of this plan. Her guidance and expertise were invaluable.

 

2018 Winter Conference Registration and Scholarship Update

Registration for the 2018 Winter Conference is open. The following links will direct you to online conference registration forms:

Pay by Credit Card

Pay by Check

Please note that every attendee needs to fill out a registration form individually.

After you complete the form, a copy of your registration should be e-mailed to you (check your spam filters).

Important Information for Payment by Check

If you are paying by check, please include the e-mailed registration form with your check when you mail it to our Treasurer, Teresa Fulk, Carteret County Finance, 302 Courthouse Square, Beaufort, NC 28516.

Please e-mail Teresa (teresaf@carteretcountync.gov) or Christopher Williams and Paarth Mehta (conference@nclgba.org) if you have any registration questions or concerns.

 

The 2018 Winter Conference Scholarship application period is also open. The application is available here and is due Friday, November 2, 2018. Submission details are included on the application. Recipients will be notified by Friday, November 16, 2018.

Please help us get the word out to any MPA student(s) and/or first time attendees you may know, and please apply yourself if you haven’t attended a conference before!

Questions regarding the conference scholarship program can be sent to Michelle Daniels (michelle.daniels@raleighnc.gov).

2018 Winter Conference Room Block Now Open

The room block for the 2018 Winter Conference is open at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, NC!

The conference will be in the Carolina Hotel from December 12-14. The resort has a number of accommodation options available to conference attendees.

Reservations (Booking ID #72704) may be made via:

Use this form to reserve by e-mail, phone, fax, or mail.

Important Information on Deposit and Cancellations

A deposit equal to one night’s cost is due at time of reservation. Cancellations must be received 30 days prior to the hotel stay in order to be refunded the deposit.

Join or Renew Your NCLGBA Membership for 2018-19

It’s that time again – time to renew your NCLGBA membership for 2018-19! If you are not already a member, this is a great time to join!

The membership renewal letter and forms are available on the membership page here.

Also, don’t forget to mark you calendars for these upcoming conferences:

• 2018 Winter Conference at the Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC, December 12-14, 2018.
• 2019 Summer Conference at the Embassy Suites, Wilmington, NC, July 10-12, 2019.

Please distribute the membership information to others within your jurisdiction that you feel may have an interest in joining the Association. Interested persons might include city or county managers and assistants; budget or finance directors; management and budget analysts; financial management analysts; strategy and performance professionals; or administrative officers in operating departments of your government, public utility, or school units having budget and evaluation responsibilities.

Winter 2018 Conference Planning Meeting

On behalf of the NCLGBA Board, we invite you to the Winter 2018 Conference – Planning Meeting on Friday, September 21, 2018!

The objectives are to:

  1. brainstorm conference session topics that are exciting and relevant to our members,
  2. secure volunteer commitments including moderators and registration help, and
  3. networking with state-wide colleagues!

Click here to RSVP (yes or no) by Friday, August 24, 2018. Even if you can’t attend, please follow the link to share ideas for session topics, speakers, and/or volunteer to be a moderator or help at registration.

Join us minutes from uptown Charlotte between 12pm-4pm at the:

City of Charlotte Fire Department Headquarters
500 Dalton Street
Charlotte, NC 28206

Lunch (including VG, V, GF, etc.) options will be provided from 12pm-1pm. We’ll follow up in a separate e-mail to get specific lunch information.

As always, thank you all for coming together to create great experiences and professional development opportunities for our colleagues across the State. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Christopher or Paarth.