This week, May 7–13, 2017, is Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). Since 1985, the first week in May has been dedicated to honoring the men and women who serve all levels of government.
Why public serivce? Because it is an opportunity to make a difference. Police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, and building inspectors keep us safe. Engineers and public works staff build and rebuild the physical infrastructure. City and county planners help envision and shape future city growth. Recreation, arts & culture, and library professionals enhance community life. City and county management takes the aspirations of residents and the policy goals of the elected governing board and puts those aspirations and goals into action.
Public service at the local level is also fulfilling because employees see the fruits of their labors. On a daily basis, local government employees see street and other infrastructure improvements, new buildings coming out of the ground, safety improvements, and happier and more fulfilled children, families, and senior citizens.
Public service at the local level is also challenging work. The efforts of local government workers happen in the context of local government where everyone gets to participate; everyone has a say.
Every day presents new challenges, new problems, and lots of stimuli. Here are five pieces of advice that local government professionals recommend that you always keep in mind throughout your career in public service.
My advice to the next generation of local government officials is to come in with thick skin but a huge heart. You will have the opportunity to be scrutinized on every decision, whether you made it or not, while at the same time having the chance to create and adopt a vision for the future of your community. Your head may hurt somedays, but your heart will be deeply touched.
J.J. MURPHY, CITY MANAGER, HOBBS, NEW MEXICO
That local government can break your heart on some days. Even in the best managed communities, bad things can happen to good people, and we do live in a very public fishbowl. But most days you are smiling and eager to go to work with your team on long-term strategies to solve community concerns. Advice? To understand it's not a career, but a life-long passion to make a difference 24/7 on quality of life within your community.
PAM BRANGACCIO, CITY MANAGER, NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FLORIDA
It’s the most rewarding career you can have. If you want to make a difference in a community, look closely at public service. Network with those in the profession. Get involved in your own community. Find out what makes you passionate and learn all you can about it.
MARY JAEGER, PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR, OLATHE, KANSAS
You cannot be selfish. You always have to take into account how your decisions will affect your employees, elected officials, residents, community groups, local businesses, and partnering agencies. You’re not doing what’s best for you; you’re doing what’s best for EVERYONE. At the same time, it’s important to know that you can’t please everyone, so don’t kill yourself trying.
SAMANTHA BRUNELL, MANAGEMENT ANALYST, PALATINE, ILLINOIS
Do you want to make a difference? Do you want to work with a dedicated group of public servants and elected officials. City/county management is a rewarding and very challenging occupation that addresses basic community needs and wants. This position involves continuous partnership, extensive communication, and patience. The rewards, however, are visible everywhere you travel in your jurisdiction.
MARK ABELES-ALLISON, COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, BAYFIELD COUNTY, WISCONSIN