Member Spotlight: Amy B. Cunningham

The most personally rewarding experiences I have had are with the Preparing the Next Generation initiative, and now I am excited to see it launch internationally.

ARTICLE | Apr 27, 2016

Amy B. Cunningham is the administrative services director for the town of Moraga, California.

How did you get into local government?

Like many people, I have a family with a public service background. In high school, my first job was working in recreation and I got the local government bug. I went on to study local government and public service. After I finished college, my first full-time job was in local government and I have stuck with it ever since. I love it.

What kind of advice would you have for young people who are thinking about serving in local government and just starting out?

Do it. Just do it. I was actually kind of sad to hear from one of my interns that some college professors are not encouraging students to go into public service. They are encouraging them to pursue more consulting-type jobs, and looking at that as the way to serve the community. I think that through her internship this summer, she's found that working in local government is going to give her the most satisfaction and help her most directly impact the residents in our communities.

That’s a success story right there.

Yes, I can’t wait until she graduates so we can hire her.

How can we help increase the number of women in local government and encourage more women to take on leadership roles?

Well I think that networking and supporting each other is huge for women. I don't know that my advice for women is that much different than my advice for men, as they move forward in advancing their careers. Everybody's family, or home model, has to work for them. Having the support to talk to people about different ways they’ve found to support themselves and their families as they move forward in their professional efforts, I think, is just helpful for everyone.

How did you become involved in ICMA?

In the early days of my involvement with Municipal Management Association of Northern California, we started a dialogue with ICMA around how to bring people into the profession who were just starting out. My first point of contact with ICMA was through the E-affiliate program and taking advantage of that. Now I’m a member of Cal-ICMA and co-chair of the Preparing the Next Generation Initiative (PNG) with Frank Benest and Tim O’Donnell. I’ve been doing that for a number of years.

How do you balance all of these memberships and what would you say is the unique value of ICMA?

I think that the different association memberships complement each other in varying ways. You can get value out of your state association because it’s very direct in dealing with the issues at the local level. The value of ICMA comes from the broader types of initiatives and programming, including more long-term strategic items that are challenges in local government across the nation and internationally. And it's just interesting to hear what ICMA members from other places have to say, especially our international members with the experiences that they share.

One of President Pat Martel’s goals is to increase overall diversity. Do you have any thoughts on how we could increase diversity across the board, including gender, age, and nationality?

That is something that PNG has been focused on at the state level in California. We have been reaching out to the different affiliate professional organizations, for example, the International Hispanic Network, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, and working with them in ways that they have found are the most effective in reaching their members and bringing membership to their own organizations.

As for your career, what challenges have you faced where ICMA was able to help?

As I’ve moved through different roles in various places, and within the organization that I’m in now, not only have I found good technical resources through ICMA, but the connections that I have made with people have been really helpful. Sometimes I think, “Hey, I have this new responsibility,” and I know who I can call. ICMA is going to be able to help me or at least point me to someone who can help me with the issues that I’m trying to resolve in one way or another.

What are you finding exciting in local government right now?

There are so many exciting things right now… growing, changing and moving forward. The community that I work in is very development-oriented, so there has been a lot of strategy around how to best provide services to the community. Going back to PNG, one of the most exciting things is that we are able to take this program that started in California and launch it nationally and internationally. I think that’s going to be a great value to everyone.

What have been the highlights of your career?

There’s all the technical things, like financial stability, and helping keep communities safe. But the most interesting, the most fun, and the most personally rewarding experiences have been my work with PNG. Not only have I found a lot of value in the different people and resources and in the ability to help shape programs that might help me, and others like myself, but being able to give back to people, helping them as they move forward in their careers and develop professionally.

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