Diversity Buzz

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become standard vocabulary for many organizations to include in their missions, presentations, and conversations around their organizational work. As public servants, these should be organizational values. In our work, we serve a wide range of people with varying backgrounds and cultures. But, the struggle comes from moving beyond the use of the words and building them into organizational action and culture. So this week, I got to experience some of the ways that Chatham County is working towards building diversity, equity, and inclusion into organizational action and culture.

The first event that I attended was the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) training for the Chatham Public Health Department. The training was conducted by the NC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. The training was a good combination of self-reflection about our backgrounds, activities to push us out of our comfort zone, and discussion to apply this knowledge to our work moving forward. Below is a slide from the training that mentions the drivers and determinants of health, meaning the things that impact health disparities. What stood out to me most was how the trainers pushed us to think about how these drivers and determinants impact the people we serve in Chatham County.

picture of a powerpoint slide from the CLAS training that says the drivers and determinants of health. it says social, economic, environmental, ecological, and cultural factors can contribute to drivers and determinants of health. It states environmental, education, housing, transportation, health care, food & nutrition, violence, and poverty as social determinants.
NCDHHS, NC OMHHD CLAS Training Slide

This past Saturday, Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) and the Chatham County Library hosted an event celebrating Juneteenth. For those who do not know, Juneteenth is an important holiday for many people in the African American community. It stems from the end of the Civil War. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery (as we traditionally define it). However, African Americans in Texas remained enslaved for an additional two and a half years. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers made their way to Texas declaring the freedom of African Americans. For many in the African American community, Juneteenth is a day of remembrance, reflection, and celebration of the actual end of slavery. The event hosted by CORE and the library was titled a celebration of African American Culture and Resilience. It was an amazing space to share history and create community. The event hosted speakers that talked about “African Civilation before Slavery” (Dr. Charles Johnson, NCCU), Human Trafficking in the Historical Context of U.S. Slavery” (Robin Colbert & Christy Croft, NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault) and “Native Americans, Africans & Slavery in NC” (Dr. Arwin Smallwood, NC A&T University). I am thankful that the community was able to have access to such rich knowledge.

picture of the Juneteenth event
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Watkins-Cruz of the Juneteenth Event

And to top it all off, I attended a session from the Chatham County Leadership Academy. There were attendees from all different departments in the County like emergency personnel, officers, nurse supervisors, and a nutritionist. This particular session was Cultural Competency Part II taught by our Human Resources Director, Carolyn Miller. It was a two-hour session that discussed privilege, institutional racism, and implicit bias (system I vs system II thinking). Most importantly, Carolyn Miller talked about how we have to dig deeper when we incorporate diversity into our workforce. She described that it has to go beyond just representative bureaucracy (though important), but that we need to begin to ask the WHY questions. It was a really insightful session that incorporated a lot of great information around racial diversity, equity, and inclusion to push those working in the County to create a more inclusive workplace.

Chatham County definitely has room to grow, as do many other institutions. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the commitment of different folks in the community working towards making diversity, equity, and inclusion not only espoused values, but also enacted values in the County.

picture of me, Stephanie, and Darrell in a giant chair at lunch
From left to right: Me, Stephanie Watkins-Cruz (Chatham County Policy Analyst), and Darrell Butts (Chatham County Budget Analyst) at lunch after the Cultural Competency Part II session.

P.S. I have found my favorite lunch spot! It’s Mi Cancun, where this lovely photo was taken. We can get a good, hearty and YUMMY lunch for under $7. (Also, do you spot any UNC-Chapel Hill MPA alums???)

Anyways, I look forward to updating you again next week!

 

Week 4 at the EPA: ACE

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs the final Affordable Clean Energy rule

There are a lot of acronyms ahead, so hang with me.

This week, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the final ACE rule. The Affordable Clean Energy rule aka “ACE” is a new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rule developed by the Trump Administration to replace the Obama-era rule known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). If any of you follow environmental policy issues closely (no? just me?) then you would know that this has been a hotly contested policy decision among competing stakeholders. The ACE rule establishes CO2 emissions guidelines for existing coal-fired electric utility generating units (EGUs). Simply put, ACE provides greater flexibility for states to establish CO2 standards for coal-fired power plants to increase their efficiency and keep them around longer. In contrast, Obama EPA’s CPP established stricter CO2 regulations in response to the 2016 Paris Agreement, an international agreement that seeks to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and curb the effects of climate change. President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Proponents of the ACE rule, including coal-industry representatives, argue that the CPP was too burdensome and an overreach of power, and hail the new rule as the Trump Administration’s commitment to protecting jobs and reliable energy sources. Opponents of the ACE rule, including environmental groups, argue that ACE does not do enough to reduce CO2 emissions and discourages renewable energy investment. In any case, the new ACE rule is expected to face heavy analysis and litigation.

Marshall Steam Station is a coal-fired power plant in Catawba County, North Carolina

The ACE rule includes new implementing regulations and future existing-source rules under Section 111 (d) of the Clean Air Act, which is where my office comes in. The Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) is involved with reviewing, permitting, and rulemaking under the Clean Air Act, and will assist in implementing the ACE rule. The final ACE rule will be published in the Federal Register and can be read here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-06/documents/frn_ace_2060-at67_final_rule_20190618disc.pdf

Until next week,

Sydney

Weeks 3 and 4– Urban Institute– Center on Labor, Human Services and Population

 

Weeks of June 3-16.

The quest for knowledge is at an all-time high and well suited at a place like Urban Institute. I immensely enjoy learning more about the Institute and working with Teresa Derrick-Mills, as well as, conversing with my junior buddy and other junior staff during the weekly check-ins. During the staff meetings, I get to learn how each research associate is working towards their goals and meeting expectations. Some have the fortune of being child or family welfare administrators and writing research protocols or requests for budgeting large-scale projects that impact many people. It is fascinating how many tasks and external research the associates are managing at one time. One notable task is working on building stronger fathers in the inner-city neighborhoods in the Bronx to build strong families.

Another special experience was attending the Convening held at Urban Institute by the National Women’s Law Center. The Center and advocates from around the United States met to discuss female and minority empowerment in the work place. They discussed litigation methods and ways to fight discrimination in the work place. The speakers ranged from a PhD in employment litigation, to experts in behavioral analysis and empowerment methods. Some had studied worker representation in the restaurant business, some had studied sex discrimination in the military, some had conducted research on employer retaliation methods and others provided consultancy for workplace inclusivity measures. I found an innate interest in the intersection between human resources and legal compliance within organizations relevant to the Urban Institute as an organization and its research projects.

Finally, the many brown bags offered by Urban Institute include topics from web scraping, to fighting the rising cost of living in poverty and importing data files in R. The opportunities to develop oneself professionally and learn more about American neighborhoods and demographics is so unique.

 

THERE, I ADMIN IT!!!

Don’t be fooled – this is NOT City Manager Bailey. It’s just Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation (tv show) after becoming City Manager

This was it – my week with Administration. I try not to play favorites, but I am earning a Master of Public ADMINISTRATION degree, so I forgive myself. Plus, I was very excited to learn from City Manager Bailey, a highly regarded City Manager and a great example to follow if you want to be a City Administrator someday (like me).

Monday featured a Management Team meeting in preparation for Tuesday night’s Council Meeting, when the FY20 (Fiscal Year 2019-2020) budget was to be adopted along with an agenda full of other action items. City Manager Bailey went around the room to check with every department, making sure not only that they were good to go, but also that he knew about any potential issues with the council or with people attending the meeting. For example, a Pickleball versus Tennis debate rages on in the City (it’s a long story that I will hopefully get to during my Parks and Rec post), and the Parks and Recreation Director made note that some people may use the public comment period to discuss that debate and how it affected the budget to be adopted.

Monday night, the City hosted a Public Hearing on “Fame,” a statue in the middle of downtown (and actually in the median of a main road, so really in the middle) that is owned by the Daughters of the Confederacy group and has made groups in town uncomfortable. As someone who was on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus when Silent Sam fell, I was very familiar with the debate. We will see what Council decides to do (or not do) after hearing public comment for 2 hours, but I will give my praise to the people of Salisbury for being civil and neighborly despite such a divisive issue.

Tuesday, I was able to shadow and talk with City Manager Bailey. After a check-in conference call with the Police Department (who are having an ironic problem of not getting grants because crime is getting too low to qualify), he had a conversation with a council member wanting to make sure they were fully prepared for the Council Meeting. At the Council Meeting, City Manager Bailey and staff presented the budget with 3 different options in regards to what Council wanted to do with the extra revenue gained by NOT lowering the tax rate, which I thought was an interesting way to make things simpler for council. The budget was adopted (WOOT WOOT) and will be posted here by July 1.

One important note worth mentioning, especially for future City Managers: whenever Council criticized something, Mr. Bailey was adamant that he was recommending the budget because he supported every decision in it, never coming close to blaming staff.

One cool project I have been working on all week is researching community engagement done by local governments across the United States…and a few in Canada. Salisbury has a few great programs, including Community Engagement Walks on Fridays and Chit, Chat, and Chew events, all in different neighborhoods throughout the City. However, staff want to know how they can reach more citizens to increase participation at Council Meetings and other community events. One cool option many cities are doing is to use online engagement, especially through a single website that lists all projects and events. This allows engagement from people who have tough schedules or simply don’t want to go to a Council Meeting (I understand that others don’t love them as much as me). Another interesting option is Participatory Budgeting (PB), where local governments allocate money to projects submitted and voted on by citizens. In fact, we had a conference call with the City of Durham this week, which allocated $2.4 million to PB projects, and lets students under the age of 18 vote as well!

If you want to know more about PB or the City of Durham, go check out Hallee Haygood’s blog! Otherwise, you can stick with me and come back next week for some engineering!!! (seriously though, you should check out the other blogs!)

The Waiting Game…

It’s been a wild couple weeks meeting with legislators to ensure the necessary education provisions are included in the budget. As we wait for conference to come to an end, we are hopeful that increases in teacher pay, classroom school supply funding for teachers, computer science programming, school lunch co-pay vouchers, and many other provisions will be included in the budget. It will get crazy intense once we see what Governor Cooper chooses to do, considering there is no talk of Medicaid expansion in the budget currently. Right now, it’s just a waiting game…

In the meantime, I have been attending House and Senate Rules, Education, and Appropriations committees that have any of our bills that we are tracking. We’ve heard, met about, and spoke on bills pertaining to career and technical education (CTE), rehiring high-need teachers that have retired, expanding youth internship opportunities, approval of charter school facility bonds, modification of the school quality/student success indicator, modifying teacher licensing requirements, advanced math course enrollment, and many others that we have our hands in.

It has been interesting to see the dynamic of an elected Public Administrator of education. Most states have an appointed Superintendent or Commissioner of education, rather than an elected one. The impact of elections and public scrutiny definitely take a toll on positions like the Superintendents, and seem to restrict him and his office from trying new ideas, piloting programs, and making riskier choices that could be beneficial to schools, teachers, and students. While many people demand change, they do not respond positively when changes are made—to put myself in his shoes, it has to be SO challenging to be a young official with new ideas to offer that is consistently shut down when introducing new ideas. Talking with a state board member brought up this difference in appointed and elected superintendents. If this position was appointed, he or she would not be so dependent on the sway of elections; rather, he or she could make choices that experts and researchers may suggest but that the average joe may not understand. That gets back to the question, though, of whether or not these administrators are there to serve the “will of the people” or to do what’s best for the people (those two may not always align).

The most fun part of my job thus far is working with my bosses (@Kevin @Wade) on the Legislative Team who always keep me laughing. They have introduced me to literally HUNDREDS of people at DPI and in the legislature. While it’s been a whirlwind, I am finally catching on to the norms, culture, and power structures of the varying groups and agencies that come together (or push apart) during this budget season. Looking back over my courses of the past year, I have seen an accumulation of institutions and values of public administration and politics, law of course, communication (communication, communication, communication!!!), research and evaluation, intergovernmental relations, organizational theory, human resources, and BUDGETing—Turns out, I’ve learned a few things over the year! And I have loved seeing it in action these past few weeks.

There’s housing, but is it affordable?

a row of three homes built by Chatham Habitat for Humanity

In my role at the Chatham County Manager’s Office, I am learning about the different challenges that the community faces. One of the key challenges that I have heard is the issue of affordable housing in the County. Since then, I have attended two housing meetings in the last few weeks, the Housing Implementation Group meeting and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee meeting. They both provided me with a clearer picture of how local government and community agencies make plans to move projects forward to address housing equity challenges in the County. But before all of that exciting stuff, let’s provide some context for Chatham County’s affordable housing crisis.

According to a 2017 study conducted by the Triangle J Council of Governments, Chatham’s housing issue boils down to three core issues: supply, quality, and affordability. There is a 2,000 unit gap in affordable units in the County. Of those 2,000, about 1,400 are needed for individuals earning 0-30% of the area’s median income. The naturally occurring affordable housing is mostly aging mobile homes or other housing stock that is in need of repairs. Because of this large need, a substantial portion of Chatham County households are cost-burdened, meaning that they are paying over 30% of their monthly income on housing.

These issues impact various Chatham communities in different ways. Hence, the equity issue.

The Aging Population

Like in many other counties, there is a lack of housing for our lowest earning residents. Chatham County is unique in that it has a large aging population. In our county, older adult households have a lower median income than the general population. Those that earn below 30% often cannot find housing that is decent or affordable so they may be forced to leave their homes or stay in unhealthy and unsafe living conditions. The aging population may have mobility restrictions, health needs, and limited or no active income to ensure they age in their homes affordably.So those serving aging populations and working on affordable housing have to create different strategies targeted for this population.

photo of a women at the Council on Aging Senior Center sitting in rocking chairs
From the Council on Aging’s Senior Center

The Housing Implementation Plan meeting was focused on the Aging Plan to support the aging population. There are other implementation plan meetings, that focus on the other issues that impact the larger aging population in Chatham. This meeting had key players representing and serving the aging community in the County. They discussed how they could reach the greater aging community and gather information about their needs. It was pretty cool watching them brainstorm. I also got to see them evaluate and re-evaluate their strategic goals and deadlines. I could also tell their commitment to the work.

Emergency Housing

picture of the entrance of the Bellemont Pointe Apartments, one affordable housing complex in Chatham
Bellemont Pointe Apartments, one of the few affordable housing developments in Chatham

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee meeting was focused on the Chatham County Housing Trust Fund. These folks are committed to creating affordable housing opportunities in the County. From our County Manager’s staff, we had our Policy Analyst, Stephanie Watkins-Cruz. (You may remember her from my celebrity post a few weeks ago.) In addition, we had folks representing various fields such as realtors, community members, non-profit leaders, etc.

Random fun fact about me – I am really interested in policy! So, this meeting was really cool because the Committee was working on the Chatham County Housing Trust Fund & Location policy. Stephanie proposed a modification to the policy to address the County’s new role in providing some emergency housing funding. The best part was watching all of these key players in housing in Chatham County discuss the emergency fund’s location, the reasons for access, the protections, and policy.

Chatham Affordable Housing WINS

First and foremost, the fact that the County now has a Housing Trust Fund is a huge win! With this fund in existence, nonprofits who are creating or preserving affordable housing for families and individuals in need have a source of funding. Additionally, there is now a small allotment for emergency housing needs such as emergency shelter or displacement.

Even more excitingly, the Housing Trust Fund has OFFICIALLY deployed its first low-interest loan to the developer of the historic Henry Siler School to create more affordable housing. The plan is to have 44 new units on this property with shared community space. So, the inside scoop is that the core of the Historic Henry Siler School will be preserved and potentially turned into a shared community space. This project aims to both respect the history and meaning of the school and addresses an important community need. In Chatham, there aren’t many smaller units (1-2 bedrooms). Less than 1% of the housing stock in Chatham county is a 1 bedroom or studio. So this development will include 22 1-bedroom rental units priced at $355-$575, and 22 2-bedroom rental units priced at $423-$675.

gif of a high five

I know that I came into the Chatham County affordable housing game a little late, but I am really excited to see these projects moving forward.  Shout out to all the awesome folks working hard to improve housing equity.

Week Six: Hallee Haygood or Mark Brandanawicz?

Hello everyone!

This week I spent a lot of time talking about city planning, so it only feels appropriate that I dive more into my dual degree with y’all. I originally applied as a dual degree with City & Regional Planning on top of Public Administration because of my senior thesis. I wrote about how city planning impacts the anxiety and depression levels of residents in neighborhoods of Chicago. The findings I discovered during this project furthered my love of using planning to affect the lives of those living in a community. So when it came time to apply for graduate school, a dual degree felt like a necessity.

Many of us know about the planning department from “Parks & Recreation,” and the most boring character on the show, Mark Brandanawicz (pictured below). Although he may appear like he hates his job, most planners are extremely passionate about the work they do. Most folks only hear about the zoning work that planning departments do, but  right now the City of Durham has a unique project going on. They are working on an update to Durham’s “Comprehensive Plan”, which will analyze  the infrastructure of the City and plan for growth in the future. I have the opportunity to work on this with them, and will keep everyone updated on my progress as it continues.

Image result for mark brendanawicz quotes on planning

Durham’s Comprehensive Plan hasn’t been updated in thirteen years, so the City is ecstatic to make changes to the original. These plans are essential to the future of Durham because they ensure that going forward, plans are already in place for improvement, and not all decisions are made on the fly. Additionally, this forward-thinking plan allows for more voices to be included in decisions because there will be more opportunities for discussion.

One of the benefits of being a dual degree student is that I can examine initiatives through an additional lens. For example, dockless scooters came to Durham this past week, and the differences in my degrees changed my analysis of the project. The MPA side of me was focused on the permits that would need to be approved for dockless transportation, while the Planning side was considering the changes to the general transportation system that this would cause, and what it implies for the future. Dockless transportation, such as scooters and bikes, will impact planners and the way they develop and zone the City going forward. Don’t worry, our trip was documented, and proof that I rode a scooter in heels can be found below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you considering a dual degree in Public Administration and City & Regional Planning, I highly recommend it. I realize I am slightly biased, but the dual degree has allowed me to take advantage of opportunities both programs offer. For example, this upcoming semester, most of my courses will be in the Planning department, and focusing on community development. I believe that these classes will pair well with my MPA courses, and allow me to be a better public servant in the future.

Week 3 at the EPA: A Seat at the Table

In the MPA program, we learn a great deal about the importance of stakeholders and bringing various voices to the table to help in the decision making process. We as public servants should be cognizant of the individuals we are serving and should listen and value their ideas. Since environmental issues touch every person in every sector, the EPA serves a multitude of stakeholders, including states, tribes, local governments, industry representatives, environmental groups, and more. Subsequently, the Agency works hard to bring all of these voices to the table in the development of environmental policy and regulation.

These efforts were discussed at length during the “Working Effectively with Tribal Governments” workshop I attended this week. American Indian tribes are unique in that they are recognized as sovereign governments. Currently, there are 537 sovereign tribal nations recognized in the United States. Each of these tribes exerts self-governance and are included in the broader community of American Indians and reservation lands defined in the United States Code as “Indian Country.”

The EPA was one of the first federal agencies to develop a formalized policy for interacting with tribal governments and considering tribal interests in carrying out its programs to protect human health and the environment. The EPA Policy for the Administration of Environmental Programs on Indian Reservations, known simply as the “1984 Indian Policy,” formally brought tribal governments to the decision making table.

From left to right: Vallen Cook, Laura McKelvey, and Greogry Richardson

The workshop discussed the historical relationship between the United States and tribal governments as well as tribal jurisdiction, authority, and environmental programs. Presenters included environmental experts with American Indian heritage. Vallen Cook is an Air Quality Specialist in the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Laura McKelvey is manager of the Community and Tribal Programs Group in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at the EPA. Greogry Richardson is Executive Director of the NC Commission of Indian Affairs.

One of the most interesting aspects of the workshop was the discussion on respecting tribal traditions, culture, and sovereignty. The EPA recognizes the contentious past between the US government and American Indians, and strives towards continuing to improve this relationship. Understanding and respecting tribal culture and identity is a key component of fostering trustworthy relationships with tribal governments so that their environmental interests and needs are recognized and addressed. Community members like Vallen, Laura, and Gregory advocate for American Indian interests and educate federal employees on how to work effectively with tribal governments. The first step is to offer them a seat at the table.

Thanks for reading!

Sydney

 

 

 

HUMAN RESOURCES

Toby Flenderson from HR in The Office

I know it may be hard, but try and ignore the impression of HR you got from Toby on The Office (okay, maybe I made it harder by putting a picture of him, but how could i not?). Not only is the Human Resources department more lively, they are also seen and used as a crucial asset by all of the departments in the City.

One of the topics that stuck out to me this week was benefits, which can be a bit of a problem for the City. For example, many people applying to jobs with the City don’t realize or don’t place importance on the great benefits that come with the job. The impression is that many people look at the pay and don’t apply or don’t accept the job because they are only focused on what they take home at the end of the pay period, missing the usually great benefits. This has unfortunately led to a few vacancies, which may require different methods of advertisement in the future. If there is one takeaway: look at benefits as much as you look at pay, because a job could have better perks than you realize.

That moves us on to interviewing! In addition to their daily tasks, each HR staff is a liaison for a few departments with the City and will help out with interviews. While departments can come up with their own question, they will sometimes ask HR for assistance in formulating questions or even style of interview. For example, we met with one department and tossed around some ideas for an interview process involving a supervisory role. One neat interview round idea was to have the applicant run a meeting, while the interviewers all took on personas that the applicant would have to deal with while presenting.

The department also started Salisbury University, which is a form of internal training. The six levels of training that involve an increasing number of classes allow internal staff to learn more about the organization and about being a leader, which ideally leads to promotion further down the line. I viewed this as another perk of the job, as leadership training and the skills it teaches add value to an employee, giving you a better chance at promotion or even skills that you could use in another organization should an opportunity arise. Plus, it shows that Salisbury is investing in its staff, which is a great environment to be a part of.

Last but not least – SWAY (the Salisbury Way). This is the new culture the City of Salisbury is trying to create for itself, and is a customer service oriented culture. In addition to encouraging staff to go above and beyond their duties, SWAY has various committees dedicated to workshopping ideas and spreading SWAY around the City. While SWAY is admittedly still in an early phase with kinks being worked out, it is already making Salisbury a better place to work and live. In one project, City staff could go visit and learn about different departments, which increases their knowledge base and builds a community. My personal favorite (which I think is SWAY related) is the Community Engagement Fridays, when a group of City staff go around a selected neighborhood and ask for feedback in person from citizens, as well as distribute flyers for any upcoming events. This is a great way to connect to citizens, especially if they can’t use the internet or come by the office. SWAY is hard for me to explain, but I definitely feel it when I am here.

City of Salisbury Employees walking a neighborhood during Community Engagement

Relationships…in local government?

So, this won’t be a gossip column talking about local government romantic relationships (well, more specifically Chatham County romantic relationships). But instead, I want talk about a key theme I have learned from conducting 18 interviews and attending 10 community meetings since being at the County Manager’s Office. Drum roll, please….

image of kids drumrolling on a table

RELATIONSHIPS MATTER…A LOT!

In Chatham County, I am an outsider asking for an insider scoop from community members about the County’s history and how we create a better Chatham County. I have been fortunate to find that community members have, generally, been willing to share and be vulnerable with me. But they also want the same in return, which is reasonable. Usually our interviews start off with everyone sitting down, awkwardly making small talk and then they hit me with the “so where are you from?” On face-value, this question is simple. But I always take this as a loaded question. I answer imagining that folks want to know who I am, where I come from, why I am here, and if I am truly invested in the community. I have to take the time to be genuine and explain my answer to folks before they are typically willing to open up to me. That is me…building trust and that relationship.

So far, I have learned so much about the County and the individuals that live, work, and play here. More importantly, I am beginning to learn why some of the challenges exist in the County, who folks trust and don’t trust, and how the community would like to see that trust be improved. Want to know the number 1 thing that folks have mentioned they want to see improvement on? ….here goes.

man doing jazz hands

TRUST: Building relationships in meaningful ways with the community.

I want to be clear, it is not that public administrators do not support communities or build relationships at all – we definitely do! But we don’t always do it the ways that our communities are most receptive and understanding of. Government is complicated as is! So often times, we, as public administrators, show care and concern for our communities through our budget by funding road improvements and supporting more school staff. This is definitely important, but the public doesn’t always perceive this as support or even caring for the community. They see this as our job (and it is)! Sometimes, the public wants public administrators to listen, be vulnerable, and show up to their community events. Doing this, we also have the opportunity to explain the decisions we have made, manage expectations, and share information about government processes. This type of relationship building, beyond BOC meetings, obviously takes time, energy, and resources, but I think it could improve the public’s relationship with local government. Obviously, everyone is not going to like us or approve of all of our decisions, but maybe we can encourage more civil discourse and increase communication by building stronger community relationships.

Disclaimer: Relationship building and trust is not an issue specific to only Chatham County. It happens everywhere, in every city, county, and state. It is something that we as public administrators can always improve. So, let’s keep truckin’ along!

guy walking giving two thumbs up

See ya at the next post!