by Rebecca DeSantis, content and engagement coordinator, ICMA

When thinking about the future of local government, it can be argued that the makeup of those leading the community should reflect that of the residents they serve. Kendra L. Smith, author of ICMA's report "Beyond Compliance: Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Populations to Achieve Higher Positions in Local Government," writes that this issue can affect how welcome some residents feel in participating in and trusting the governmental process.

The pipeline to higher-level positions in the organization is an important factor in ensuring that retention and succession planning in local government are equitable and in line with their goals and values as an organization. According to Mary Morrison, organizational development manager of Tacoma, Washington, “We have to be more intentional about looking at the pipeline for both gender and race." If there are no underrepresented candidates in the pipeline, there likely will not be diversity at the senior level. Without questioning the status quo, it may be challenging for local governments to go beyond a compliance mindset in creating a diverse and inclusive organization.

The report offers some helpful tips for local governments looking to increase organizational diversity through retention and succession planning.

1. Create an organizational stance on promotional policy and practices with an understanding of how the organization wants to develop.

This could involve determining procedures for identifing and grooming future leaders. It may also include establishing professional development offers that help employees gain new skills that could help in future roles.

2. Focus on providing internal candidates with the training and knowledge transfer to allow them to advance into positions of leadership.

The prospect of moving up the ladder may be intimidating for staff who did not feel they have all the skills they need. Letting employees know if there are higher-level positions that are attainable to them and what training they should take advantage of to get there will help a jurisdiction plan for the future.

3. Empower organizational champions to stimulate the shift and create coalitions around retention and succession.

If creating a retention and succession plan is a new initiative for your jurisdiction, having an organization champion can help establish a sense of urgency around the issue and take the necessary steps to stimulate movement.


To read more about recruiting and retaining underrepresented populations, download the “Beyond Compliance” report.

Download Free Report


Want to continue the conversation on equity and inclusion in the profession? Check out these offerings!
Upcoming Webinar

ICMA University Online Classroom presents the Interest, Confidence, Risk, Reward: Getting More Women into Local Government Management Positions webinar, which is a discussion about moving the needle on advancing women in the profession. Join ICMA, the League of Women in Government, the Michigan Municipal League, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill for a webinar on March 26, 2019 1-2:30 pm ET, on the current state of women entering into local government management and the amount of progress that has been made in recent years. Our presenters will report on new research data, introduce new professional development models, and provide a range of barrier-breaking ideas and opportunities. Register for the webinar today!

Help ICMA Build a Collection of Resources on Equity and Inclusion

ICMA's Strategic Plan, Envision ICMA, codified ICMA's commitment to equity and inclusion into ICMA’s operations with the goal of inclusion becoming organic to how we design and execute programs, and a lens through which we approach partnerships, opportunities, and challenges. ICMA believes that creating better communities around the world begins with a commitment to equity and inclusion. We invite you to learn what other communities are doing and help us collect leading practices on equity and inclusion by emailing

New, Reduced Membership Dues

A new, reduced dues rate is available for CAOs/ACAOs, along with additional discounts for those in smaller communities, has been implemented. Learn more and be sure to join or renew today!