Week Eleven: The Final Chapter

This is my last post for the summer, and it is very bittersweet for me. I have loved working for the City of Durham, and my last day of work this Friday will be an emotional one. I have had the best supervisors (seen below), worked on projects of great interest to me, and have been able to network with more passionate local government employees than I can count.

As a final project, I have two presentations I will be sharing with the Director and Assistant Director of the Budget & Management Services Department. First, I will give a brief explanation of what I have done this summer. And second, I will give an in-depth presentation about the local sales tax research project I was tasked with. After combing through data from 2008-2019 and running a variety of Pivot Tables, I feel ready to present my findings.

We have several local sales tax revenues that come into the City of Durham, which have been designated to us by the state. Articles 39, 40, 42, and 44 give explanations about where the money is coming from, and where it is allocated. One of my charts, explaining how revenues have changed over time, can be seen below. If you want to see more of my charts and tables, feel free to reach out to me.

When I first started my professional work experience, I was desperate for any recommendations people would have for me. So check out my tips for starting a new job or internship!

          1. Watch as much stand-up comedy the night before to get you relaxed before the stressful first day
          2. Find ways to connect with people in and out of your department, especially other interns
          3. Volunteer to work on every project that interests you because no matter what it will be a learning opportunity
          4. Write down all of your best memories, and ALSO everyone’s book/podcast recommendations, as they are usually related to the field
          5. If you’re working for a city or county, find ways to learn the ins and outs of each department so you can apply each lesson to your career after graduation

The rest of my week will be filled with tough goodbyes and several final lunches. But in two weeks I’ll have to get back to school and I am (shockingly) excited about it. I cannot wait to apply what I learned in the field to the classroom. Now I’m one step closer to making change on a local level. Let’s do this thing.

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Week Ten: City of Durham Ride-A-Longs

My supervisors have been incredibly supportive of me getting a well-rounded local government experience. One of their goals as part of my time in Durham, was for me to have several ride-a-long opportunities. As the summer has gone on, I have been able to meet with Inspections, Public Affairs, Solid Waste, Police, and more.


For my Inspections ride-a-long, I was with a member of the building inspections team. They generally look at the framework for incoming businesses and new homes. This division recently started using GIS to map out their route each morning to determine where they needed to go. Previously, they would have to create their own map, which added about an hour every day. By creating this system, it has increased productivity and allowed for more inspections per day to be accomplished.

On this ride I learned more about the City of Durham, and all of the moving parts that go into accomplishing a project. For example, for a house turning into an Airbnb that is changing its basic structure, at each stage of the changes, all divisions of Inspections must go to the site to approve their work. This can create “red tape” but ensures that all structures are as safe as possible.

Public Affairs

One of the jobs of the Public Affairs Department within the City Manager’s Office is to run the live-streams of the City Council meetings. Although at first it might seem simple, once you get a behind-the-scenes preview, you can better understand the complications. There are six different cameras, on at all times, and two people need to be in the back room monitoring them the whole time. Additionally, someone not on-site works on the closed captions the entire time. There is usually a delay in speech, and that is because they are on a call listening to the meeting. City Council nights can be exhausting for those who stay to create the televised session, but it adds to transparency.

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Solid Waste

This was an INCREDIBLE experience. I really got a better understanding of the City of Durham by spending four hours on a garbage truck. I was on one of the “exempt” trucks, which means that the truck picks up garbage from a resident’s address if they cannot take it to the curb themselves. These trucks go to each home, find the trash can, and empty it in the back of the truck personally. I did not even know this was offered by the City of Durham, and was in awe of the benefits it provides.

During my ride-a-long, I was on the recycling truck, and realized just how inaccurately people recycle. Although I’ve always known the process isn’t perfect, I was surprised by some of the things people considered to be recyclable materials. Durham’s Solid Waste Department is working hard to educate people about how to get rid of their trash, but hopefully more people will catch on.



The Police Department was one of the ride-a-longs I was most excited for, and it lived up to the hype. Although it was raining and nothing too wild happened, I gained valuable knowledge on how the department functions. First, all issues that are called in need to have someone dispatched. Someone has to deal with the situation, even if it may seem insignificant. Further, a lot of people call the Police for problems that officers cannot do anything about it. For example, if two people bought something together and one of them takes it, the Police cannot file a theft report, because they technically obtained it together.

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If you ever get a chance to attend any sort of ride-a-long, I recommend you take it! You’ll learn more than you could imagine.

Week Nine: NCLGA 2019 Summer Conference!

Thank you all for coming back to my blog, despite a lapse since my last post. I was on vacation back home! Although it was good to be back, we spent the majority of the time packing because I have finally convinced my parents to move to North Carolina. But now I’m back and can finally update everyone on the incredible conference I attended from July 10th-12th.

The North Carolina Local Government Budget Association hosted their annual summer conference this year in Wilmington, NC, and I had the opportunity to attend. Just another one of the many reasons I feel so thankful to the City of Durham this summer. Many of the budget folks in attendance lovingly dubbed it the annual “Nerdfest.” And although we did have our moments of “geeking” out about certain topics, it was also a great time for networking and making new friends. See the photo below for a blurry example of new friends.

There were also amazing sessions. I have attached the agenda here if you want to take a look. A large focus was placed on natural disaster relief due to the increasing number of hurricanes that are being experienced in the state. Additionally, the planners of the conference focused on including general state policy updates. One of these was the “Municipal and County Legislative Update,” which provided time to learn about laws being made that will impact cities and counties. We also learned about the economics of the state, and how federal changes would play a role in the upcoming year.


As someone starting their career, one of my favorite sessions was on the pension system. This is one issue I did not know much about going into the conference, but felt extremely knowledgeable on after I left. For those of you who are looking at working in the state of North Carolina, it has one of the best pension systems in the United States. So if you weren’t already interested, hopefully you are now.

Finally, the NCLGBA 2019 Conference has been one of the most growing experiences for me in my graduate school career. `I was able to meet people who have similar interests, while learning more about the field. Although not everyone may find that budget is their passion, there are conferences for everyone. I highly recommend everyone look into a similar opportunity.

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Week Eight: From Local Government to Presidential Candidate

Local government has many incredible leaders, but the 2020 Democratic debates showed just how many people are hoping to make the jump from the local to federal level. Although Mayor Buttigeg and Mayor de Blasio are the only candidates running that are still in local government, 8 of the 20 candidates who debated this past week got their start there. That’s 40% of the candidates!

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The eight folks representing local government during these debates are: Cory Booker (former Mayor of Newark, NJ) , Pete Buttigeg (Mayor of South Bend, IN), Julián Castro (former Mayor of San Antonio, TX), Bill de Blasio (Mayor of New York City, NY), John Hickenlooper (former Mayor of Denver, CO), Beto O’Rourke (former Mayor Pro Tempore of El Paso, TX), Bernie Sanders (former Mayor of Burlington, VT), and Eric Swalwell (former City Councilor of Dublin, CA).

While I was watching these debates I couldn’t help but analyze some of their roles. As some of you may know, most local governments have either a Mayor-Council or Council-Manager form of government. In Mayor-Council governments the Mayor is in charge of day-to-day activities. One example of this is New York City, NY. Whereas, in the Council-Manager form, city managers are tasked with these activities. The City of Durham functions as a Council-Manager system.

In a recent article in CityLab, several leaders discussed their experiences in local government, and how this would inform them in the role as President of the United States. Hickenlooper said, “I do think that having been a mayor provides wonderful training and experience of finding ways to bring people together and achieving goals and accomplishments through that unity.” One book called, “If Mayors Ruled the World,” points out that local governments are capable of changing the world because they rely on collaboration and interdependence. This type of leadership will be necessary going forward as politics get more complicated.

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Personally, Governor Hickenlooper’s words were encouraging to me, because it shows that people are realizing the change-makers that exist in local government. More people are understanding our dedication to creating positive communities, and our drive to further this.

No matter what happens, we all know the best Mayor of all time is Mayor Max of Idyllwild, California.

Week Seven: The Fellowship of the Interns

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One of the most important parts of any internship is the network you make along the way. Working with the Budget & Management Services Department and getting to know everyone better has been incredible. After a few weeks, I realized I also wanted to get to know other City interns as well. Although I love working with my department members, I wanted to gain more insight into what other folks in a similar experience to myself are learning. The Assistant Director of BMS recommended that I send out an email to all department leaders asking for their interns’ contact information. Thankfully, all of the department heads were excited to have their interns involved, and quickly shared their names with me.

We now have a cohort of around ten interns within the City of Durham. We come from a variety of departments, including: General Services, Community Development, Budget & Management Services, City Manager’s Office, and Economic Workforce Development. Everyone has unique interests in local government, and we are all hopeful that this experience will allow us to learn more about how local government functions.

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We had our meeting earlier this week, and it was an incredible experience. Each member had fascinating insights into local government, and we all found ways that our work tied together. For example, one intern is working on a project with General Services that will increase trails in the Durham area. He was discussing the financials of the project and budgeting for the improvements, and as I listened I realized just how much I had learned about the fiscal year budget process. It was really incredible to have conversations with folks just as nerdy about local government as myself, and I cannot wait to see where our careers take us.

One of my fellow interns is within the Office of Economic Workforce Development, and she is learning about Durham’s policies on minority and women-owned businesses. Her assignment is to find data on these businesses and create an open data portal for folks in the community to learn more about locations to shop. One of the most beneficial things she has taken away is how complicated gathering data can be, but that community partners can make the process easier.

As we learned about in Human Resources this past semester, the people you surround yourself with at work can change your own experience. Creating relationships in any position is essential to the well-being of yourself and others. I think that by connecting with other interns I won’t just have support from budget staff but also from others in the same career stage as myself. This is crucial to a local government career because as you talk with others about the field, you learn more about changes that can be made, which can lead to positive changes in your community.

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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.

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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 Five: The Final Countdown

Welcome to my weekly blog about life here in the Durham Budget & Management Services Department! This budget adoption season Council made a variety of changes to the proposed budget. The department is currently working  on updating the budget to align with their decisions.

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City Council held a special Work Session on Thursday, because there were a variety of choices still to be made around the budget. This additional session was to make final decisions on two main items: 1) whether or not to add more police officers to DPD and 2) if part-time city workers not making the Durham livable wage of $15.46 an hour should have their pay increased over time or all at once. These discussions have been forcing me to think back on my time in class this past year. For example, in Public Administration Institutions & Values, we were constantly discussing where residents place their values, and how this will vary no matter where you work. The values of the Council members were obvious in these decisions, focusing more on equitable pay and less on policing, but it also calls into question the values of the community. Opinions on social media have shown that for many, this does not express their values, and folks appear to be frustrated with the decision.

This meeting was very special to me, as it was my first time appearing on the Durham local news, pretending to know what I’m doing. You can see the article for yourself here. As you can also see in the screen grab, a request to add 18 additional officers to the Police Department was denied by Council. The proposal was to add the officers so that the beat schedule would allow for shifts to be less lengthy, which would hopefully improve quality of life for officers.  After it was clear that a majority of Council members did not support the positions, the Mayor attempted to offer a compromise and bring it to nine officers. However, this still was not what a majority of the Councilors wanted, and in turn four Council members voted to remove the 18 officers from the proposed budget. The impacts of this decision will be seen in the next fiscal year. In the article hyperlinked above, you can see the City Manager discussing how plans will likely be pivoted going forward around this subject.

After making this decision, the Council discussed whether or not the city’s part-time workers would have their hourly pay increased to $15.46 an hour. The Human Resources Department recommended steady increases over time, which would be about $180,000 this year. However, the Council decided to increase them all this year, which will cost an additional $650,000 for FY 20.

Although the budget process took up a large part of the week, there were several other projects I was able to work on. As many of you may know, there was a gas explosion in Durham about two months ago, and all of the departments related to the accident attended a session to discuss responses to this occurrence. One topic brought up was how online communications to constituents could be improved. As social media grows, more cities need to have plans for publishing information in emergency situations.

This upcoming week I will be working on a few different projects. One meeting I am looking forward to is with the Director of the Planning Department to discuss my dual degree. In my next blog I plan to dive further into the dual degree of Public Administration and City Planning, so stay tuned.

Week Four: “I Hear People Caring Loudly at Me”

This week was one for the books. For everyone who has watched “Parks and Recreation,” we all remember the moment Leslie Knope explains the feeling of town halls and although there was no yelling, there were many moments full of folks caring for their community.

The week was all about taking the budget from proposed to adopted in the City of Durham. It started with budget work sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. These lasted all day and consisted of each department explaining their upcoming budgets, as well as highlights from the previous fiscal year. It was a great opportunity to learn more about what different departments have planned for the coming year. City Council members use this time to understand what is in the proposed budget and ask a variety of questions. This helps ensure they can answer questions that arise from constituents. A photo from the event can be seen below.

After this finished, it was clear that the Council had more information they wanted to discuss about some items in more detail before making a decision. So they will be holding another work session this Thursday to dive deeper on a handful of topics they will decide to fund or remove from the proposed budget. I will be sure to update everyone on these discussions next week.

I am excited that I will now be working on a multi-departmental project about fees in the City of Durham. The team working on the project has not decided which fees to look at, but we are in the brainstorming stages. Once this is decided, we will dive into the data and look at the equity of fees, and what changes could be made to benefit residents that need it the most. Updates will come on this initiative, but I am extremely excited to learn more from our findings.

In other exciting news, Durham reached their Participatory Budgeting goal and in the first year of voting had over 10,000 residents vote on how they want to spend $2.4 million! The votes are still being tallied and the winning projects will be  announced later in June, but it will be great to find out the winners and see the implementation of these projects. I am assisting in tallying the votes, and have loved watching the democratic process. 

Week Three: The Beauty of Participatory Budgeting

For many public servants, the democratic process is viewed as a key to success. Personally, I have always loved this aspect of local government. Local government has the capability to impact people’s lives in a direct way, which is why it is so essential to have residents’ opinions on the community.


In the City of Durham Budget & Management Services office, this is of the utmost importance to all who work there. The department is implementing a new process of “participatory budgeting.” $2.4 million dollars has been set aside for projects decided on by those who live in different parts of Durham. The initiatives are currently being voted on, and the projects with the most votes will be implemented in the next year. Much of my work the past few days has been around this process, as voting comes to a close at the end of May.

Through participatory budgeting outreach I have interacted with constituents in ways I never have before. One way I have been able to reach out to residents is through text messaging. This communication channel, allows folks in the office to hold a conversation with anyone who may have questions, instead of just sending out an email blast that will have little response.

Residents can vote either online or in-person on a paper ballot. Whenever we have new responses cast on a paper ballot, we  input them online so that everyone’s vote is included. I have been able to add folks’ votes to the online server, allowing me to see what their preferences are, and get a better idea of the City of Durham.

In addition to participatory budgeting, I have been included on the work to implement the City’s Strategic Plan adopted last summer. The City of Durham has five general goals and each department is assigned to one, and they work together to form objectives and initiatives that can be achieved under each goal. Staff will be presenting next month on the progress made on these initiatives, and as the departments work on their presentations we have been working with them to ensure they are prepared. This has allowed me to better understand general strategic planning, as well as the future of the City of Durham. A photo from one of these meetings can be seen below.

That’s all for this week! Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll update everyone on how budget presentations go this Wednesday and Thursday for each department- it’s sure to be a good time.

Week Two: Diving into the Budget

Hello again! This has been a whirlwind of a week, so I hope you enjoy following along as I explain all I was able to experience. Right now the Budget & Management Services Department is putting together the Fiscal Year 2020, or FY20, budget. This means that most of the work I am involved in is ensuring that numbers are aligned and descriptions for departments are accurate. Reading through the current 286 page document (it will continue to get even longer) has allowed me to better understand initiatives being taken on by the City of Durham. This has also helped me to improve my Excel skills as I work to make changes to the numbers that need updating. If you would like to see an example of Durham’s previous budget, FY19 documentation can be found            here.

When I am not working on the FY20 budget, I have an individual budget assignment that has been assigned to me by my supervisors, Ben Kittelson and Pat Madej. Currently I am analyzing Durham local sales taxes from 2008-2018 to create an analysis of changes to collection, policy, and rates over the ten year timeline. Most of the data is coming from North Carolina’s Department of Revenue and old files from the City of Durham.

As I said in my post last week, I also was able to attend #ELGL19, which was put on by Engaging Local Government Leaders. On Wednesday, there was an Innovation Summit, where leaders in the field discussed best practices for finding creative solutions in local government. As someone breaking into this work, it was fascinating to hear more about what other governments have been doing, and how I can work to improve innovation in whatever role I serve in going forward.

Thursday and Friday were the main days of the conference, with a variety of sessions discussing changes being made by local government leaders around the country. One of my favorite sessions was called, “Engaging Local Government Employees.” The leaders on this panel discussed ways that cities and counties can improve the wellness of employees, and continue to recruit the best and brightest minds.  My favorite photo can be seen below, of Brian Farmer (MPA ’20) and myself, imitating Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson.

The conference finished Friday afternoon, and right after, folks from our department went back to the office. Pat and I attended a meeting with the Durham Emergency Communications Center, where we discussed the end of FY19 with staff.

On Monday, most of my day consisted of HR workshops but during the breaks in the day I went to the Budget & Management Services office to prepare for the City Council meeting that night. Before the Council adopts the FY20 budget, they must ensure that the democratic process is being followed, and share information with the public. Members of the community gathered to hear more about changes and proposals that the City Manager is recommending to the Council. A photo from the event can be seen below.

Residents brought forward their thoughts on the positives and negatives of the budget. Many discussed the proposed increase to police staff, as well as a request for a livable wage for part-time City employees. The Council has a lot to ponder before adopting the budget but I look forward to keeping everyone updated as we continue.