Building Relationships with Council Members

ARTICLE | Nov 21, 2012

To be effective in their roles, local government managers must have the confidence of their elected officials. This is not always an easy task. In a November 15 web conference, Kevin Duggan, ICMA’s West Coast regional director joined Mike Conduff, ICMA’s senior advisor on governance, to give practical advice on how to build and nourish relationships with elected officials.

Duggan opened the web conference with a look at four reasons why successful relationships between managers and council are important: to improve the quality of service to the public; to increase the effectiveness of your organization and improve staff morale; to increase your job satisfaction; and to ensure job security. He called upon his 27 years as a city manager to create a list of suggestions for building and maintaining effective relationships. A few pieces of advice from the list were: never compete with city council for the limelight; do the small stuff well for them to trust you with the big stuff; and always make time for council members.

Conduff explained the importance of team building through activities such as council retreats and orientation for candidates and new elected officials. He “became controversial” in his words by stating that local government managers need to be visible in the community, at charitable functions, and at other events. While that seemed to be at odds with Duggan’s position, Conduff explained that there is a fine balance between being visible and outshining an elected official. As a best-selling author and columnist for PM magazine, Conduff accented his presentation with personal stories and real-life examples of how to build and maintain solid working relationships.

For more practical advice, including Kevin Duggan’s Top Ten Suggestions, you can order the On Demand version of “Council Relationships that Get Things Done.”


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