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At the 2022 ICMA Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, attendees got the chance to learn more about a very unique career development opportunity, the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. Past program participants, along with past ICMA scholarship recipients, took part in a roundtable session to discuss the program’s leadership lessons and personal and professional value this program provides.

With the scholarship deadline looming—January 31, 2023—prospective participants should read on to learn more about this exciting opportunity.

About the Program

Senior Executives in State and Local Government, a flagship program of the Kennedy School, delivers a healthy balance of both traditional and hands-on learning experiences to help even the most seasoned of public officials better address the concerns of their constituents and communities.

This three-week program for senior executives in local government mimics a city ecosystem that allows participants to test solutions to various issues in real-time, enabling the participants to:

  • Challenge their assumptions about how to exercise leadership in the public sector.
  • Develop new conceptual frameworks for addressing policy issues.
  • Examine innovative partnerships and new models of collaborative governance.
  • Explore the relationship between citizens and their government.
  • Understand the behavioral dimensions of decision making.
  • Exchange ideas with experienced faculty and a diverse group of colleagues.

The program operates as an interactive classroom, in which participants, peers, and faculty work together on real-life case studies, and learn from each other along the way. This classroom setting transforms into an interactive environment that serves as a forum for raising difficult issues, which creates and maintains conversations that lead to change.

Scholarship Opportunities Available

While this program offers an invaluable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, the tuition fee is still a factor that can influence one’s decision to apply for the program. For those who are reluctant to apply because of the price tag, ICMA awards yearly scholarships covering the $16,900 tuition fee, in which the scholarship recipient will only need to pay their own travel expenses. This generous scholarship is provided by ICMA Strategic Partner, The Ferguson Group. Learn more about the scholarship at

Participants Share Their Thoughts on the Program

At the conference roundtable, Duane Holder, deputy county manager, Wake County, North Carolina, ICMA’s most recent scholarship recipient, shared his experience in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program. Holder opened his no-holds-barred talk about the “transformative” experience that this program provided by highlighting the intentionally curated, dynamic, diverse, dedicated, and committed group of public servants that made up his group of classmates. This “room of superstars” was intentionally selected to form an ecosystem where open forum group discussions could take place, in which the different personalities and biases of participants mimicked that of ones that participants would typically experience on the job. Holder emphasized that the challenging coursework, in tandem with engaging group discussions, led to a lot of self-discoveries, which forced him and his peers to think differently. He implored the audience to be willing to deviate from their comfort zones if they are interested in this program, emphasizing that they will get out of it what they put into it.

Holder’s final key takeaways were rooted in “the management of loss” and that there are truly no win/wins in public service, only tolerable losses; a realization that changed his leadership practices for the better. Holder’s wife, Valentina Holder, even shared her thoughts on how the program has changed her husband, both professionally and personally. She knew that he wanted to participate in this program to improve himself, and she was impressed that this experience resulted in her husband becoming a better, more compassionate leader.

Sharon Subadan, ICMA-CM, CEO, Carron Solutions, LLC, another Senior Executives in State and Local Government program participant, echoed Holder’s sentiments and shared that it was “110% worth the money and time taken”. She highlighted the impressive level of instruction given, and how the program has contributed to her journey of both loving and developing herself as both a person and a leader.

Nate Rudy, town manager, Readfield, Maine, the final Senior Executives in State and Local Government program participant to share their experience, echoed what his fellow former participants of the program shared, and went on to encourage listeners that this is the ideal program for those who are looking for a second wind in their career and want an experience where they can really push themselves. Rudy emphasized the personal and professional changes that he went through as a result of this program, largely contributing that to learning “the hard things” in a controlled environment in a room full of people who did not look like him.

Key Takeaways

After each past participant shared their personal experience on how this program truly elevated both their careers and lives, they took the time to answer audience questions and give some final key takeaways; mainly in the areas of making the case to their employers for the time off and financial assistance needed to attend this program, the changes in their leadership philosophy, and how they went about implementing those changes in their organizations.

These participants found that sharing the topic areas that the program will cover and how they can implement lessons learned into their community made a strong case for their organizations to both approve the time off and even offer financial assistance. Participants also dissected the new ways they approach leadership in their organizations, particularly how they have become much more understanding and compassionate leaders. Each participant found that this program afforded them the opportunity to gain a much deeper, broader understanding of why they do what they do, which allows them to listen more honestly and lead more authentically.

If this sounds like the type of rejuvenation your career needs, we encourage you to visit for more information on the program and ICMA’s scholarship for the program.

Far More Than Just Another Continuing Education Opportunity

By Duane Holder, Deputy County Manager, Wake County, North Carolina

As an experienced local government administrator and ICMA Credentialed Manager, I have been fortunate to attend numerous continuing education conferences, workshops, and sessions. Through the years I have found some to be more interesting than others, but all contributing to my professional and personal growth. As a self-avowed lifelong learner, I have been committed to increasing my knowledge with the goal of being a better manager and helping to better serve my community.

The Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the Harvard Kennedy School was far more than just another continuing education opportunity. This life-changing three-week, intensive program placed me in the midst of the most dynamic, diverse, and dedicated group of public servants of which I have ever been a part.

Harvard was able to create a unique “ecosystem” reflective of the many personalities, voices, and opinions existent in the local communities we serve. In an age where partisan divide and the lack of civil discourse at the federal level have trickled down to local government, it is critical for local government administrators to be armed with the tools to be able to effectively manage the resources and lead the people that provide those public services that our communities so desperately need.

While this program provided a variety of academic theories, strategies, and models, the most valuable takeaways for me had to do with the work of “self.” The program brought me face to face with my own biases, suppositions, and belief system. I was able to take a deep dive into my own personal and professional motivations for serving. The controlled environment enabled me to take risks and to stretch myself by challenging myself in a way that is uncharacteristic for me.

In classic Harvard style, faculty utilized a collection of case studies to provoke thought and discussion. Group discussions and assignments provided opportunities for collective learning and growth. Classmates were encouraged to spend as much time together as possible, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Not only did this result in spirited discourse and intellectual debate, but it also helped to create friendships and bonds that, in some cases, will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

I am honored to have been selected by the ICMA scholarship committee for this scholarship and I am thankful to them, the Harvard staff and faculty, my classmates, and the scholarship sponsors for this life-changing opportunity.

So, if you’re at a point in your career where you are looking for a higher level of professional and personal growth and development, and you’re up to the challenge of being comfortable with being uncomfortable, I encourage you to seek out more information about the program and apply for the scholarship. It will not only change you, but it will also change the way you engage with those around you.

Headshot of Jessi Atcheson

JESSI ATCHESON is a marketing coordinator at ICMA, Washington, D.C. (




Headshot of Duane Holder

DUANE HOLDER is deputy county manager of Wake County, North Carolina.






Scholarship Eligibility Criteria: The scholarship is only available to senior executives defined as municipal and county managers and assistants who have been members of ICMA for at least three years. View the complete eligibility criteria at

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