1. A session called “Managing Your Council-Manager Relationship” is awfully enticing for any City Manager. But what made the session especially attractive was that one of the speakers was Michael Willis. Willis is the General Manager of Shellharbour City Council in New South Wales, Australia. Michael is a smart man, dedicated to our profession and a former ICMA President. However, his most notable distinction at a conference like this is that he has been a City Manager in THREE countries: New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. No one in the world beats that feat. He has perspective working with local elected officials that is unmatched. He had a great talk with lots of lessons, but one phrase from a former Mayor he worked with said it all. The Mayor once told him after they no longer worked together: “When I needed you, you were there. When I didn’t, you weren’t.” For me, that sums up the most important lesson for any City Manager. Always be there to help, but always be smart enough to get out of the way. Good advice for a manager in any country.
2. I spent time today with nine Masters in Public Administration students from my alma mater: the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. These students come from all walks of life. Some know they want to get into local government after graduate school, others are here to just test the waters. To the person they were smart and thoughtful men and women. What struck me most was the excitement they had over what they had seen just in the full day of the conference. Their minds were opened to what we do as local government managers in ways a textbook or college professor could ever do. They are now ready to go back to Syracuse, learn more about opportunities in cities and counties and hopefully start careers in local government. I saw them catch the bug here in Phoenix.