Professional Work Experience in Papertown

On Monday, I began my PWE in the office of the town manager in Canton, North Carolina. Canton is located in Haywood County just twenty miles outside of Asheville. Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. Canton attracts adventure seekers who enjoy hiking the surrounding trails that include popular landmarks like Cold Mountain, floating down the Pigeon River that runs through town, or visiting downtown businesses that feature delicious southern food and locally made goods. In the center of town sits a large papermill that manufactures Starbucks coffee cups, juice cartons, and other paper products. Due to the central location and large size of the mill, the locals affectionately refer to Canton as “Papertown.”

As a resident of Canton for nearly seven years, I am excited to be completing the PWE in my own community. This week marked my first experience working in local government. While I previously worked in a congressional office, I entered the MPA program to transition back into public service after a stint in the private sector. Through this PWE, I hope to gain a broader perspective of how government works in a position unique from any of my previous experiences.

From the first day at my PWE, I observed how relevant the information learned in my classes is to actually serving in a local government position. I began the day on Tuesday reading through local ordinances which related to the discussion in my Law class later that day. Whether grasping a better understanding of organizational structure by thinking back to Org Theory or writing a report using the skills learned in Professional Communications, the material I’ve studied in my classes has already informed nearly all the work I’ve tackled in the PWE. Over the next few weeks, I look forward to learning both in class and in my PWE just how important balancing theory and practice is to a public service career.