What attracted you to local government?
Community service. When I was a teenager, I began volunteering for the county at a local program for disabled youth. That theme carried through my college years where I worked in juvenile corrections, and then went straight to law enforcement after undergraduate school. Interestingly enough, I never really thought of a career in public administration until I was in the Glendale police department and I switched over to city hall where I became the city council administrator for Glendale and launched my public administration career. After a 15-year career in public safety, I came over to the public administration side.
What advice would you give those interested in a local government career?
I would encourage them to volunteer with their local community in one way or another. Communities have boards and commissions that citizens serve on, and that's a great way to get involved. You can pick something you specifically like. Want to learn about building the future of your city? Join the planning commission.
For college students, I highly recommend internships. We've been offering internships for a very long time in Arizona, and some of our best new leaders are coming from that program.
Participate in any kind of professional development opportunity available. A lot of people don't understand what our associations do. Our local associations and ICMA provide opportunities to get some professional development. Join a mentoring program. Network with individuals who have been in the career a long time so that you can understand what track you want to take in life.
What tips would you have for women aspiring to be local government professionals?
No matter where you are in your career, even if you're nearing retirement, it's critical for women to support each other. Being in local groups, such as Women Leading Government (WLG) or the new League of Women in Government, creates this network that you can consult when you need help. They provide the opportunity for you be able to pick up the phone, and call anyone in any state and say “Hey, here’s what’s going on in my city; here’s what’s going on with my city council; how would you handle this?” They also give you the ability to make new friends and find like-minded people who have the same passion for local government.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a local government manager to have?
Leadership, ethics, an understanding of data, and fun. You must be able to be a role model for your city and citizens as demonstrated through your ethics. Another would be the use of data in our cities to determine what kind of trends we're currently seeing after the economic recession, as things are changing very quickly in our cities. And then lastly, I would like to say that I think it would be good to just have some fun. As government employees, we tend to get locked into our day-to-day routine. We need to remember that we're part of a larger community, and get out and do things in our community, whether that be a volunteer project or something else. In my free time I volunteer with the Arizona Humane Society, which has just really reflected greatly on my city, too. I've been able to partner them with our city, and other west valley cities, for various projects. Getting out into the community and actually having some fun is important.
How would you describe your experience changing careers to public administration from law enforcement? What resources did you use to adjust to your new position?
When I made that change in 2006, it was amazing. Even though I had worked for the city for 9 years, and in law enforcement for 15 years, I had no idea all of the pieces that went with the city. One of the resources I used was the knowledge within my city, relying on my city manager and my assistant city manager to help me on the immediate journey. I was managing our city council, and also relying on ICMA to understand the Code of Ethics. There's a difference between law enforcement and local government public administration because in law enforcement, many things we do are black and white. It's based on law. We have very specific policies and procedures, as opposed to the city hall side, where I learned that a lot of things are gray. You have to really do your research to figure out how to make the best decisions, especially when it comes to personnel, and working directly with your city council and mayor to develop the political savvy needed.
What excites you about the profession right now?
The changes. The profession is getting more and more exciting every day. Technology is just becoming so complex. That's exciting, yet intimidating. I’m working really hard right now on how to manage data, and performance management; ICMA offers analytics and the performance management program. I’ve relied heavily on using the ICMA Knowledge Network in order to stay up to date on everything that's out there. Just attending the conference in Seattle and going through the exhibit hall was amazing. Every other booth is some kind of technology, some kind of software. So I would say that we're moving into a totally different phase in local government where everything we do will be driven by technology.
Now that you’re on the public administration side of things, why ICMA?
ICMA really made a huge difference in my understanding of local government, as did serving in my state association. One of the first things I did when I went to city hall was to become involved with the state association because I had been encouraged by my mentor. The state association immediately encouraged me to become involved in ICMA and that was in 2006. I think the most important factor for me was the networking and getting to know people from all over the United States and other countries, as well as those involved with the most recent initiative for WLG. I have been participating in the WLG for the past three years and I have met so many people with a passion for advancing our profession, especially advancing women in our profession.
What challenges have you faced your career and how has ICMA helped you overcome them?
ICMA’s Code of Ethics has made a huge difference in my career. The city that I work in has been through a bit of turmoil in our management and council in the past five years following the economic recession. I rely on the Code of Ethics to make decisions in my environment. When I mentor people, I tell them that we have that Code of Ethics for a reason. If you're in a position where your gut is telling you that you shouldn't be doing something and you need something to back you up on that, you can use that Code of Ethics. I have a number of peers and colleagues who have done that over the years, so I would say that's one of the most critical ways that ICMA has helped me in my career.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It's been a great journey and it just keeps getting better and better. I would say the highlights so far are the colleagues and friends I have made over the years. Being part of my state association created a whole new network for me, with long-lasting friendships that I would have never expected. I'm looking forward to more highlights as my career continues.