As a new addition to Clark County, Nevada, senior management analyst, Kathleen Walpole, MPA, (KW) applied to the Emerging Leaders Development Program to gain new skills and knowledge to allow her to grow within her organization. In this interview, she shares how the program not only provided her with a cohort of other early to mid-career level professionals that she could learn from, but also a deeper understanding on various management topics including recruitment and effective human capital management.

ICMA: Why did you choose to apply to this program?

KW: When I applied to the Emerging Leaders Development Program (ELDP), I was still “new” to Clark County, Nevada, and I was looking to gain new knowledge and skills that would allow me to continue to contribute to the organization and move it forward.  What is unique about the experience is that you are in a cohort of other early to mid-career level professionals from all different backgrounds and organizations. I was interested in learning from professionals from diverse backgrounds in order to learn new ideas and approaches to some of the most challenging problems that local governments face.  Additionally, I was also interested in learning more about management topics, including recruitment, labor relations, legal liabilities, and effective human capital management. I knew that human resources as an area that I was not well skilled in yet, so I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to learn more.

ICMA: What aspect of the program have you been able to apply to your management analyst role?

KW: When I was in the program, I was not yet in my current role with Clark County. However, I was able to apply aspects of the program to my previous positions, as well as my current role. One aspect from the program that I have been able to apply is a better understanding of the budgetary process and different revenue streams. While I had studied public budgeting during my graduate career, my role at Clark County focuses more on policy and programs. However, as I continue in my career, I know that it is of importance to understanding the budgeting process and different revenue streams. The program provided a refresher on the basics of public budgeting, but it also provided me a further understanding of different revenue sources. It will be a useful in my current position and future endeavors.

ICMA: What was your biggest takeaway from participating in ELDP?

KW: One of the biggest takeaways from participating in ELDP was a reminder that local government is constantly changing and responding to issues that we often do not see yet due to the changing landscape of the world.  In order to effectively respond to those issues and ensure that our communities thrive, local government professionals need to stay on top of the various trends through multiple methods, including communicating with their peers from across the country and world. Sometimes, we often only compare our communities to those of similar population or geographic region. In doing so, we overlook other similarities that we may have with other jurisdictions (e.g. industries, percentage of public lands, and transportation systems, etc.) and miss out on opportunities to understand creative ways in responding to the issues that we face.

ICMA: How did this program improve your knowledge on human resources management and workforce engagement?

KW: When I applied to the program, I was interested in learning more about human resources, including recruitment, labor relations, legal liabilities, and effective human capital management. Due to the structure of my department, I do not directly supervise employees. However, I am involved in various aspects of human resources, including research on effective human capital and ensuring that the workplace is one that attracts and retains employees. 

The project I conducted for the program was a full-time employee survey.  Clark County’s current county manager was appointed in December 2016. Following her appointment, she wanted to gauge the level of morale and employee engagement among numerous departments. Through analyzing the results of the survey, I was able to identify numerous instances where it was reported that inconsistent policies and procedures were occurring with regards to employee hiring, promotions, performance appraisal, and discipline. As a result, and moving forward, I was able to be involved in review of such policies. Knowing issues that could be present allowed me to assist in ensuring that policies are equitable, legal, and current.

ICMA: Did you enjoy the coaching experience? How did you benefit from it?

KW: I really enjoyed my coaching experience. I was paired with a city manager who had worked for numerous organizations and was in the midst of changing organizations during the coaching experience. I learned about his career and steps he took along his career journey to arrive into his position as a city manager. He also provided valuable experience to me regarding my career. My one supervisor departed my organization while I was in the program, and he was an additional resource that I was able to speak to as the organization adjusted and reporting structures changed.  He guided me and provided valuable insight during that period of time. I continue to stay in touch with my coach as I progress in my career. It was a connection that I would not have made without the program.

ICMA: If you could give one piece of advice to women who are considering a program like ELDP, what would it be?

KW: If you are hesitant about signing up for the program, go for it. There is nothing to lose, but everything to gain. You will gain valuable skills and knowledge to advance your career as well as the profession. Women leading government agencies is the future, and programs like the ELDP can help women advance.

Get more information on the ICMA Emerging Leaders Development Program. Application deadline: August 31, 2020.