#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.