Executive Director Update

ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott shares updates on ICMA’s new race, equity, and social justice team and initiatives.

Sep 15, 2020 | ARTICLE

Dear Colleagues,

As we head into the final stages of preparation for our ground-breaking digital event, UNITE, I want to take a moment to thank you for all that you are doing in service to your communities. Your dedication continues to be the inspiration that keeps the ICMA staff and volunteers focused on meeting your needs at this critical moment in time. I hope you are able to break away from the daily, seemingly endless, crises to join us for this historic conference. With more than 225 relevant and dynamic education sessions I know you will come away with new ideas and renewed energy for tackling the challenges ahead.

One of the most daunting of these challenges is the work you are doing to end systemic racism in our communities around the world. We committed to you back in June that we would take significant steps to help lead and support your efforts. To generate the kind of focus needed to bring resources and tools to you, we have formed a Race, Equity, and Social Justice Team. Like our Coronavirus Action Team, this group is driving advocacy, content, and partnership activities to equip you as you address equity and social justice issues in your communities. Here are a few updates on the work of the team.

Race and Social Justice Microsite

The new race and social justice subsite on icma.org is a great starting point. Visitors to the page will get frequent updates with the latest content from ICMA and have access to a list of partners and affiliates working with ICMA on the mission of racial and social justice. One of the resources you’ll find there is a glossary of terms for understanding expressions used in public discourse.

Visit the new Race, Equity, and Social Justice site


Access the Race, Equity, and Social Justice Glossary


Special Issue of PM Magazine: Moments of Change

This PM Magazine Special Supplement, Moments of Change: Leading with Courage and Commitment for Racial and Social Justice, includes observations and commentary from local government leaders, along with resources for addressing the needs of your community and ways to take action.

Access the PM Supplement


New Audiocast Series

Silence is no longer an option when it comes to social injustice, so ICMA is continuing the dialogue with this special audiocast series. We are speaking with local government leaders on various aspects of racial and social injustice—what they have experienced in the past, what they are seeing in their communities today, and what they anticipate as the path forward. The first audiocast series features several of the content contributors to the PM Special Supplement, and includes myself and Valerie Lemmie, director of exploratory research, The Kettering Foundation, Dayton, Ohio, as we explore in more detail our stories on various aspects of racial and social injustice. Stay tuned for upcoming audiocasts from Kurt Wilson, ICMA-CM, former deputy city manager, Stockton, California; Opal Mauldin-Jones, ICMA-CM, city manager, Lancaster, Texas; and, David Ellis, ICMA-CM, county manager, Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina. Future series will include equity officers and those who do the work of equity, as well as law enforcement perspectives of police chiefs.

Listen to the Audiocast Series


Free Webinars and Learning Opportunities

We’ve developed six webinars available on-demand or in podcast form with many more to come. We hope you’ll join our next free webinar on October 20 at 1:00 PM ET, Improving Equity with the Right Tools.

View All Learning Opportunities


UNITE: Bringing the Community Together

I’ll end where I began, with our digital conference UNITE. We’re offering more than 20 sessions at UNITE on the topic of equity and inclusion and several of our keynote and featured speakers will cover this topic as well.

Given all that is going on in our communities—from confronting budget shortfalls, to dealing with the ravages of both COVID-19 and other natural disasters—it might be tempting to shift our attention away from equity and inclusion. But I believe, and I know many of you do as well, that we are at a tipping point and we can make true progress right now in breaking down the systems of inequality that are keeping our cities, counties, and towns from rising to their full potential.

I do commit that ICMA and in particular the Race, Equity, and Social Justice team will continue to develop and share new resources and tools to help you achieve your equity and social justice goals and improve the quality of life for every member of your community.

Thank You to the 2019-2020 Board

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous work of the ICMA 2019-2020 Executive Board under the leadership of President Jane Brautigam. The board’s accomplishments this year were many, including

  • Amending the ICMA constitution to extend membership to more early career professionals in the leadership pipeline.
  • Amending the requirements for board candidacy in order to encourage more diversity.
  • Initiating the process of restructuring ICMA dues.

When the board met in June it swiftly drafted a statement on systemic racism and directed the ICMA staff to begin many of the activities that I covered earlier in this message. As Jane began her presidency she promised to be a messenger, reminding us of the sacred value of the work we do every day and also celebrating the positive difference we make in the lives of the people we serve. I can tell you she did that and so much more and we’re grateful for her service.

There are other exciting initiatives in the works that I will share with you soon. For now, I hope you’ll take a moment to view the website and share your thoughts at speakup@icma.org.

Wishing you well.

Matt Ott Signature



This message was sent to all ICMA members, via email, on Monday, September 14, 2020.