Over 30 student members and several student chapters joined ICMA President Pat Martel and a panel of passionate local government management leaders in a discussion on increasing diversity and inclusiveness in the local government profession. While the content of the call was directed to students, the take-aways are important for all ICMA members and those interested in the local government profession. Through their own experiences entering and working in the profession, the speakers explained why they believe diversity is a necessity in our local governments and how we can bring about that change.


  • Mentors are vital for growth and success
  • You should believe in and trust yourself
  • It takes courage to have conversations about diversity and inclusiveness, but
  • Intentional ACTION is necessary to bring about change.


  • Pat Martel challenges us to be courageous and act with intentionality when working on expanding diversity and inclusiveness in the local government profession and reminds us that local government service is an infectious profession, but it is not a career most people are born into. It takes exposure to the public service at the local level to inspire others to enter the profession.
  • Mary Furtado, assistant county manager of Catawba County, North Carolina, challenges us to deliberately make the time to engage with someone who looks different from us in a meaningful way, to ask questions about what they value, what challenges they face, and about advancing diversity and inclusion.
  • Dawn Ashbacher, town manager of Sykesville, Maryland, encourages us to build real relationships both with people who are the same as us and with people who are different, to create safe spaces, and to get support from others.
  • Joe McRae, director of parks and recreation for Cleveland Heights, Ohio, inspires us to be bold enough and have enough confidence in our voices to pursue opportunities within the local government management profession and to be at that table when communities are making the big decisions. 
  • Kent Wyatt, senior management analyst for Tigard, Oregon, and co-founder of ELGL asks us to challenge our organizations, our schools, our employers, and our local government leaders by asking them what specific actions they are taking to encourage diversity and inclusion, and then be willing to be part of the solution.

You can find more information and listen to the call online.

Ask yourself:

  • What can I do to expose more students and young people to the local government management profession?
  • How can I actively engage with people who are different from me? Then, how can we turn these courageous conversations into action?
  • How can I mentor others? In what other ways can I give support to those entering or working in the profession?

Some suggestions:

  • Engage with a current ICMA student chapter, or work with your local MPA program to start a chapter.
  • Speak at universities, K-12 schools, and career fairs about how local government professionals make a difference in the lives of citizens every day.
  • Teach a course in local government at a local high school, college or university.
  • Become a Coach with the ICMA Coaching Program.

Contact Christa Rainwater at nextgen@icma.org for more information on how you can make a difference starting today.