#NCLGBA22 Recap Series: Budget is About More than Just Numbers

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2022 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our next #NCLGBA22 Conference Recap comes from Valerie Sauer, one of the recipients of the Conference Scholarship and dual MPA/MSW candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill.

More than anything, the NCLGBA Winter Conference embodies the power of human connection. As a dual MPA-MSW student with aspirations to impact state policy, I recognize that budgets communicate priorities. Behind the numbers and spreadsheets are the community goals, collective visions, and future plans for the residents of our municipalities and counties. 

Throughout all the sessions, connections made over coffee, and conversations had at dinner after the conference days concluded, I met people energized about supporting their community, colleagues, and elected officials excited to realize their ideas through the budget process. Now to be clear, I am not a numbers and spreadsheets person. Unlike most people in the conference sessions, I do not derive joy from inputting formulas in Excel. So despite the gratitude that I felt at receiving the conference scholarship, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was also intimidated to attend sessions with such budget-savvy individuals. To my surprise, however, I met people who related to my feelings and didn’t necessarily intend to pursue careers in budget. One conference attendee enthusiastically shared their passion for the “wordy” side of budgets — crafting the narratives that tell the stories of how macro-level decisions impact individuals every day. 

In the “Women in Leadership: Success Your Way” session, it was inspiring to hear from women whose backgrounds are as varied as mine. The panelists were open about the realities of cutting their teeth in a male-dominated field and honest about the trade-offs and complexities of navigating their careers. At the conclusion of the conference, I left feeling grateful for the ability to attend and the connections it enabled me to form, as well as a newfound sense of confidence in my own ability to realize the changes I hope to impact throughout my career in North Carolina government.