Quote by: Tom Carroll, Village Manager, Silverton, Ohio

Tom Carroll, an ICMA 2018–19 Research Fellow, has 22 years of municipal management experience, serving in various positions in local government in Loveland, Ohio; Savannah, Georgia; Laramie, Wyoming; and Longmont, Colorado. He is most comfortable operating at the intersections of complex legal, financial, political, intergovernmental, and interpersonal challenges. He uses an interdisciplinary approach to tackle organizational and community issues. Tom and the organizations he has managed have won numerous awards for innovation, citizen engagement, intergovernmental collaboration, and benchmarking.


Small communities are very diverse in nature, so it is difficult to describe one overarching trend that will impact all small communities in 2019. That said, it seems that residents’ expectations of small local governments’ problem-solving capabilities will only increase.

  • Small local governments are expected to create quality jobs in an increasingly global, automated economy.
  • Small local governments must deal with the immediate effects of increasingly severe weather. We are on the front lines dealing with flooding, severe wind, drought-induced water shortages, and blizzards.
  • Small community leaders are increasingly asked to step into the governance void left by more distant state and federal government agencies, organizations where gridlock seems a common occurrence.

Because we are approachable—and literally right there—small community managers will be asked to address these increasingly complex challenges. Like it or not, the time for timidity in small community governance is over.

2019 Tip

Like so many people, I usually start each New Year by making a “to do” list.

But as a manager in a small community, I plan to try a new approach in 2019.

This year, I am going to create a “stop-doing” list.

In many respects, this is harder because it involves saying “no” to a past practice. Doing the same thing again is easier, even if it is not working. David Halberstam noted in The Best and the Brightest that “. . . in government it is always easier to go forward with a program that does not work than to stop it altogether and admit failure.”

So my tip for 2019 is to urge all local government officials to ask the following question: “What aspect or approach to governance do I need to stop doing because it is not working?”

Then stop doing it. We have to shed outdated approaches to take on the increasing responsibilities our residents expect.

Learn More

Read the PM article ‘Saying No’ for tips on how to effectively say no in the workplace.

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