Local Government 101: Working with Elected Officials

Sep 28, 2015 | BLOG POST
local gov 101 - mastering the fundamentals - working with elected officials

Local Goverment 101 - Mastering the Fundamentals kicked off earlier this afternoon with it's first course, 'Working with Elected Officials'. Filled with a large group of local government professionals, conference presenters Sylvia Carrillo, Dennis Gehrt and Opal Robertson, discussed several ways local government professionals can work with elected officials. 

Building a relationship with your elected officials is a continuous and ongoing process. There is no single, best way to engage with elected officials and it starts before your interview and ends when councilmembers are no longer your point-of-reference.

Below are some quick tips to continually demonstrate to elected officials that you understand and respect their position and authority as elected representatives of the community.

1. Know Your Professional Principals. To master the city manager role, one must have a moral compass and an understanding of the Code of Ethics. Promoting an ethical culture is a key leadership responsibility. Equity, transparency, honor, integrity, commitment, and stewardship are standards for excellence in democratic local governance. For more information about ICMA’s Code of Ethics, its guidelines and enforcement process, and current issues and advice facing local government professionals, visit the Ethics Program section of icma.org.

2. There Are Rules to Live By. It may sound cliche but don't surprise your elected officials. By sharing information and remaining proactive, you will have a successful relationship. It's also important to self-govern, adopting rules and procedures. Here is an article that discusses appropriate interaction among councils, managers, and staff in a council-manager form of government, as commonly embodied in a city's charter or ordinances. Clarifies the roles of the elected officials (providing direction to the manager) and manager (providing information to the staff). The article also provides tips for elected officials on communicating with staff and describes the manager's ethical obligations.

3. Become Stronger as a Whole through the Resources Available. If you feel like you are in need of some additional recourses to form greater relationships with elected officials, ICMA's Knowledge Network can help you answer the questions you are seeking. Speak with other local government professionals who may have experienced the same things you are experiencing.

There are also programs that can build your expertise, including: Emerging Leaders Development Program and Leadership ICMA. You can also seek help from Credentialed Managers, your State Association or mentors from the Legacy Leaders program.

4. Thrive! Don't Just Survive. Relationships take work. As a local government manager, one of your toughest challenges is building and maintaining rapport with elected officials so that you can be effective in your role. Get to know your Elected Officials by making sure you get to know them as individuals. Learn how to build your communication and rapport skills by streaming this webinar.

Always remember to share with all officials, be transparent and remember, you're not alone! 


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