Why Choose a Career in Local Government?

Jun 10, 2016 | BLOG POST

On April 20, 2016, the Villanova ICMA Student Chapter hosted an engaging panel discussion on career paths in local government. The panel featured honorary guest, Gloria Wolek, and Villanova Master of Public Administration (MPA) alumni: Drew Sharkey, Sandra Brookley Zadell, and Christopher Hoffman. Moderated by ICMA Chapter President, Brandon Ford, this guided conversation explored the reasons why these individuals chose a career in local government as well as provided recommendations for those interested in serving in local government.

This panel also served as the official kick-off event to recognize a gift from Gloria and Francis Wolek to the Department of Public Administration at Villanova University.  The purpose of this gift is to encourage students to consider a career in local government and elected office.

Honored Guests

Gloria Wolek served on the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners from 1979-2000, and as its President from 1997-2000.

Francis Wolek, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus in the Villanova School of Business and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce (1977-1981) in the Carter administration.


Gloria Wolek
Former Member (1979-2000) and President (1997-2000) of the Board of Commissioners of                    Lower Merion Township, PA 

J. Drew Sharkey, Esq., MPA
Township Commissioner, Cheltenham Township, PA and current President of the Pennsylvania State  Association of Township Commissioners

Sandra Brookley Zadell, MPA
Borough Manager, Borough of Chalfont, PA

Christopher Hoffman, MPA
Township Manager, Lower Moreland Township, PA

Brandon Ford - Moderator
Villanova ICMA Chapter President

Rationale and Theme of the Event

Craig M. Wheeland, Ph.D.
ICMA Chapter Advisor
Vice Provost for Academics, Professor of Public Administration
Villanova University

I invited three panelists to serve on the panel with Gloria Wolek.  I knew Gloria could talk about her experiences as a volunteer in community organizations and also her many years of exemplary service as an elected township commissioner.  I invited Drew Sharkey because he is an elected township commissioner, current President of PSATC and a Villanova MPA alum.  Gloria and Drew could speak to the rewards and challenges of serving as elected officials who work with professional managers.  I invited Sandra Zadell and Chris Hoffman because they are serving in their first appointments as local government managers and also are Villanova MPA alums.  Sandra and Chris could speak to how they started in their careers, how the MPA degree helped them, how internships helped them and generally provide their perspective on how professional managers contribute to good government.  Finally, Brandon Ford served as moderator because he is currently working in local government while earning his MPA and also served as President of VIllanova's ICMA Student Chapter.  Brandon also worked with the panelists to create the list of questions he used to guide the discussion and on their introductions.  In short, the panel could inform and hopefully inspire students to pursue public service in local government - as volunteers or as elected officials or as professional managers.

Developing the Panel Discussion

Brandon Ford

ICMA Chapter President (2015-2016), MPA Student
Villanova University

Why pursue a career in local government? This was the central question posed to the panelists of Villanova University's ICMA Student Chapter panel event this past spring. By exploring the backgrounds and experiences of our amazing panelists, it was the Chapter's intention to expose current, new, and prospective students to the virtues of public service. Another goal was to offer the audience something more than a "text-book" experience and have the panel engage in a meaningful dialogue about what it is really like to work in local government. Lucky for us, we had four amazing panelists representing both the political and administrative sides of the field of local government. Each panelist brought a unique perspective and set of experiences that truly demonstrated his/her passion for local government.

From the very beginning, we knew that we had to try our very best to capture all of that personality, knowledge, and experience in our panel discussion. We all worked together very closely to develop the structure and dialogue of the panel, and believed that it showed in how successful the event ended up being. The dialogue was interesting and engaging, and I personally loved how panelists jumped in to respond to a question or to the answer of another panelist. I thought that the audience and the panelists themselves enjoyed the exchange as well. 


Watch Event Recording Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5uZpja-lWU 

ICMA Event - all

Our panelists, honored guests and ICMA Chapter Leadership (from left to right): Christopher Hoffman (MPA ’10), Sandra Brookley Zadell (MPA ’06), Gloria Wolek, Francis Wolek, Drew Sharkey (MPA ’03), Brandon Ford, Dr. Craig Wheeland.

ICMA Event - all

Brandon Ford, ICMA Chapter President and MPA Student, guides the lively and engaging panel discussion.


ICMA Event - all

Dr. Catherine Wilson, Department Chairperson and MPA Program Director, (middle) welcomes guests and panelists to the ICMA Chapter Event, “Why Choose a Career in Local Government” on Wednesday, April 20,2016.


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