I cannot begin to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for being selected as the 2017 Tom Lundy Scholarship Recipient. Representing the National Association of County Administrators (NACA) as this year’s recipient at the annual International City/County Management Association (ICMA) conference in San Antonio (Bexar County), Texas, was such an honor. The theme of the conference was “Building Bridges,” and I was able to take part in invaluable conversations about ways to ameliorate and shape our communities into inclusive and collaborative havens.
It was very informative for me to be able to take part in the NACA Executive Board Meeting and meet the incredible leaders of this organization. I respect and admire their selflessness in advocating the issues on behalf of counties, and it inspires me to be more involved.
Each Key Note Speaker was nothing short of amazing. Each one had me walking away thinking about how to take their lessons learned and wisdom shared back home to my own community and, not only that, but how to continue carrying those lessons with me throughout my career. I loved how there were breakout sessions after the General Sessions to offer opportunities for two-way conversations with these inspirational speakers. One of the Key Note Addresses, “True Moral Leadership,” by Anna Maria Chávez, spoke to me personally. As an ambitious female, she spoke to how her career path was different because of her gender. Her story highlights what it takes to empower women and girls into leadership roles.
Another impactful session I went to was “Reaching for the Top Job: What’s Holding You Back?” Three top female public servants shared their career lessons learned. As a mid-career female professional, it was encouraging to hear how these women had advocates in their corners pushing them to continue their career development even before they thought to themselves. Sheryl Sculley, City Manager of San Antonio, shared how she kept developing her career while having her children—that’s something that wasn’t covered in graduate school!
I was even lucky enough to help facilitate a session on Wednesday called “Diversity Games: Take Home Fun Ways to Improve Awareness and Inclusion” (thank you to Jill Silverboard, City of Clearwater, for this opportunity). The participants were purposely put at small tables where they didn’t know anyone. The roundtable discussions I led were about what it means to have phobias and how we share similar passions for the communities we represent. All of the conversations were respectful and the atmosphere safe to share one’s paradigm. We discussed real differences and learned from one another how to improve our own awareness in the city/county that we represent.
In addition to the great sessions, the networking afforded at the conference was unparalleled. I’m grateful for having met the many seasoned administrators willing to share their knowledge and experience. My only regret at this year’s conference was not being able to be in multiple places at once! Since there were many sessions of interest to me that I could not attend, I appreciate the online materials available to continue learning after the conference. I can’t wait to take part in future ICMA conferences and continue my membership in NACA throughout my career.
With Much Gratitude,
Emily A. Colon, MPA
Pasco County, FL