Your Past Could Influence Their Future: Interviews with Local Government Leaders Reflecting on Their Path to the Present and How They Are Helping to Mold the Future

ARTICLE | May 10, 2016

Interviews with Cynthia Eades, HR Director for Catawba County, NC, and Reina J. Schwartz, Assistant

Historically, government employees have ranked in the upper echelon in terms of longevity in the profession. The attrition rate is much longer than most private-sector industries and much lower than the service industry. While this has been a boon for municipal employers, it creates certain challenges, especially as the workforce ages. In April we started a new series, #WorkforceWednesday inspired in part by the recently released report from the LGRC, Workforce of Tomorrow, where each month explore a new theme by sharing articles, conducting interviews and asking questions. Last month we asked you to answer the question, what makes local government the employer of choice for you? We also included a great piece from retired City Manager, former Alliance Board Member and local government change agent Cheryl Hilvert. Check out the summary of what we heard and read. 

For our second installment of #WorkforceWednesday, we are looking at the relationship between supervisor and supervisee. More than that, though, this compilation of two interviews, with Cynthia Eades, HR Director for Catawba County, NC, and Reina J. Schwartz, Assistant City Manager, San Pablo, CA, investigates why our interviewees entered the workforce, and what they look for in and how they approach the recruitment and hiring of young talent. In the following interviews, Ms. Eaves and Ms. Schwartz share with us the influences that drove their success while discussing the tools they are using to recruit and inspire new talent. The reality is, all of us were influenced at one point by someone who supervised us, so we wanted to first go back in time, looking at some of our successful, influential members and asking them how they go to where they are, but also ask them how they are helping to shape the future of the workforce today. After you finish reading the interviews, head on over to the Knowledge Network and lend us your thoughts on how you are engaging those you supervise.

How did you get started in local government?

Ms. Eades: Started after grad school MPA. Originally Wanted to be an engineer, assessed that I had an aptitude to manage, presented career in local government internship with county manager in North Carolina.

Ms Schwartz:  My Interest in local government began as a senior in college. I obtained a degree in Conservation in Natural Resources. People in the community felt local government was doing things “to them” not “for them” or “with them”. I said to myself, “I would like to change that.” Later, I pursued an MPP, worked for the California State Legislature a couple of years and started with City of Sacramento in 1991.

Do you remember anyone who helped you early in your career? What did they do and how did that help?

Ms. Eades: First county manager. First job. Just an intern and did a lot of stuff, got to attend meetings, be involved, and gave important projects and placed trust in her. Specifically fair labor acts project was first one. Got to watch him work for a year, two other jobs after and continued to stay in contact through alumni situation. Stayed resourced. Myers Briggs. Had styles that complemented each other well.

Ms. Schwartz: In 1993, I was appointed to a management positon and had the support of Deputy City Manager, Bob Thomas for the City of Sacramento. He was always very encouraging. Bob always used to ask me, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

There was a time when I had to present in front of council, and it was not the best presentation but it was not the worst. Bob advised me to reflect on and where I could improve by: 1) Going back and watching my presentation and 2) Looking at my hand gestures. But one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received, and it is not fun but will make you better presenter is to improve your credibility, and make yourself more comfortable.

Was there any particular event or activity that occurred that made you feel a part of the organization?

Ms. Eades: Pay classification plan was a very important project that was entrusted into her and she felt connected because she was backed by manager and had support of employees and was given some authority.

Ms. Schwartz: We are using any online mechanisms that the organization can find for recruiting. For example. CalOpps, a website that has positions all over CA. We are also leveraging social media. Professional associations have been another avenue for us to find potential young talent. Finally, we have utilized administrative intern positions (such as city planning) and leveraged our youth commission as an outreach program.

What techniques are you using to recruit younger talent into the organization?

Ms. Eades: Job Fairs, very traditional, develop good relationships with schools that are graduating type of graduates that they want to look for. Very important for that. Young professionals group within county, use that network to find jobs. Provide benefit package, flexible work schedule among other things.

Ms. Schwartz: We are using any online mechanisms that the organization can find for recruiting. For example. CalOpps, a website that has positions all over CA. We are also leveraging social media. Social media. Professional associations have been another avenue for us to find potential young talent. Finally, we have utilized administrative intern positions (such as city planning) and leveraged our youth commission as an outreach program.

Why is it good for new or younger employees to learn more about the organization and how can incoming candidates learn more?

Ms. Schwartz: I have only been with City of San Pablo for 1 year. Currently our city website is not the best. Although, we are in the process of revamping the website. For an analyst position, the city does a good job in describing accomplishments in budget documents.  The CAFR report is an incredibly helpful (programmatic narrative).

Is there anything else you would like to share regarding managing your workforce and your aspirations for your organization's future?

Ms. Eades: Always open to change. When we hire, not only hire someone who fits education requirements, but someone who fits culture. Culture changes over time, but how do find those who can adjust and work well in it. Be genuine and caring. Enjoy people and work well with people.

Ms. Schwartz: Networking is a great avenue into public sector work. Stay open to opportunities that may seem odd. Through a series of odd events I obtained a solid waste manager role, managing day to day operations. Be open to “quirky” opportunities.

What in the community do you have a particular passion for?

Ms. Schwartz: In this case, this community has a high childhood obesity rate and poor health statistics. I am an advocate for fitness and healthy eating. We have successfully done this through our initiative: HEAL- Healthy Eating, Active Living, which received an award by the American Planning Association (learn more at http://www.sanpabloca.gov/index.aspx?nid=1158).

It is fun for me, I am super interested in our initiative. One fun fact, is that in our general plan document the city has a health element. This element helps set out planning principles to support a healthy community.

Where the individual's career aspirations are taking them - what path are they on?

Ms. Schwartz: Having only been here a year, I don’t have plans to do anything else. This was a move up to city manager position, I was a department head before that. Ultimately, it will depend on what happens the next 5 years here.  It is great!  The organization is great!

After reading these interviews, does this ring a bell to how you are engaging and attracting young talent? For the young talent you have already recruited, are you engaging them, checking in on them, and making sure you recognize, value, and support their future goals? Let us know by sharing your experiences to this question in the KN, leaving us a note in the comments section, or emailing us at ideas@transformgov.org.

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