One of the major benefits of attending the ICMA Regional Summit and the Emerging Professionals Leadership Institute is the opportunity to connect and network with other local government professionals in your region. This year we want to try and connect participants even before they attend our networking events, so to help we've started a special blog post series, 'Get to Know an #ICMASummit Attendee.' From now until the very last event in May, get to know your peers, even if they are located in a different region!
In this week's 'Get to Know an #ICMASummit Attendee' meet Sandi Fowler, assistant city manager of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who will be attending the Midwest Regional Summit this March in Elk Grove Village, IL.
Is 2017 your first trip to the Midwest Regional Summit?
Yes, this is my first time attending. I’m interested in meeting colleagues from the region and learning more about issues we likely have in common. Since my city, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, became a council-manager city in 2006, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting my Iowa colleagues, and others at the ICMA national conference. I’m counting on the Midwest Regional Summit to offer yet another perspective on local government.
How did your career lead you to local government?
My career at the City of Cedar Rapids is long – I just had my 27th anniversary. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work in varied capacities, in the Commission form of government, with neighborhood groups, and now as the Assistant City Manager. As our City has grown and changed, I’ve been lucky enough to grow and change with it.
What is your biggest challenge professionally?
Cedar Rapids was affected by a disastrous flood in 2008, and we have been building back and growing economically ever since. It has been a significant challenge to turn a $6 billion disaster into an opportunity, but I think we’ve been successful – building back public buildings, replacing lost housing, growing economic opportunities, and building resiliency against future flooding.
Tell us a little more about Cedar Rapids.
Cedar Rapids has a population of 128,000 and is the second largest city in the state of Iowa, and serves as an economic engine for the state. We are one of the largest cities in the world for corn processing, with both Quaker Oats and General Mills producing cereal products here, and headquarters of Rockwell Collins, an avionics manufacturer for commercial and government aircraft.
The city is enjoying a strong re-birth, in its 9th year of recovery from a 2008 flood that devastated the downtown and core neighborhoods, causing $6 billion in damage, including loss of most government buildings.
If you could sit down with one person in the local government profession, who would it be? What would you want to ask?
I enjoy talking to anyone in the local government profession, so it’s hard to think of one person. I learn from everyone in the profession that I meet, and often we have a lot in common. I would choose to talk to a leader in local government who has had the same disaster and rebuilding experience that Cedar Rapids has. I would ask how they keep the momentum of rebuilding and progress going, after the disaster funds have stopped flowing in. I would love to meet someone who has used a natural disaster as a catalyst for long-term, sustained growth and development of their community.
What is one thing you can’t live without in the workplace?
I enjoy my work very much, and really thrive on the challenges it presents each day. I like new opportunities and the ability to learn about new aspects of local government (even after 27 years!). With new challenges, I get to meet more of our employees and interact with them about their work. I enjoy hearing how much they value our profession and the passion they have for their work.
Thank you, Sandi! We hope you enjoy your first visit to the Midwest Regional Summit in Elk Grove Village this March!
In the next coming weeks, stay tuned to the ICMA Blog to meet even more of our attendees. In the meantime, register for the ICMA Regional Summit or the Emerging Professionals Leadership Institute!