We've put together some commonly asked questions to give you more information about the Board Diversity process and the 2020 Ballot Initiative. If you have questions that have not been addressed, please submit your question(s) and we'll add it to this page with the answer(s). 

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Q. Why are these amendments being proposed?

A. Given the changing demographics of our world and a desire to include new voices in our profession, the Executive Board considered how to improve diversity and inclusion of membership across the association particularly in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and age. Diversifying and expanding the membership is also a key priority of the ICMA Strategic Plan (Envision ICMA) which was developed by the membership and approved by the board in 2017. The board began a year-long conversation with members about how to accomplish that objective and to welcome, encourage and develop the future generation of leaders. The amendments are a result of that year-long conversation.


Q. What problem are we trying to solve?

A. The group of members who currently can vote and serve on the board is not diverse.  The chart below shows the demographics of those who currently are eligible to vote and the affiliate members working for local government who would be able to vote if the ballot measure passes.

  Voting Members (Full) Affiliate Members in Service
Number of Members 7,200 2,300
Male 79% 49%
Female 21% 51%
Hispanic 2% 6%
African American 5% 7%
Asian <1% <2%
Average Age 56 Years 43 Years


By opening the non-CAO seat on the board (there are 5 of them) to affiliate members in services, we would hope to see more diversity on the board.  These two steps take us closer to a more diverse cadre of professionals.

Q. Of all the issues facing ICMA, why make this the priority?

A. Focusing on who votes or serves on the board can seem like “inside baseball”. During the feedback sessions we learned that most members did not understand who gets to vote or how people get elected to the board.  But they did care! Having a say in the future of your professional organization or the opportunity to serve on the governing body is critical to member engagement.  While ICMA has done a lot to build a more diverse profession, the Board felt that these were two critical areas to further that effort.  (You can find more information on ICMA’s initiatives to build the profession on  our equity and inclusion topic page).


Q. What makes you think that this reflects the feedback of members?

A. ICMA hired a member engagement consultant who specializes in diversity and inclusion. The comprehensive outreach began in February 2019. The feedback came from: a national online focus group; discussions held at 5 ICMA Regional Conferences and 23 State Association meetings, more than 2,000 member comments, and informal conversations with board members. While that does not represent all members, what was clear is that more than 75% of those who provided feedback felt some change was needed vs. no change.


Q. Why is diversity only defined as race, ethnicity, gender and age? What about sexual orientation? City versus county? Size of community? Diversity of thought?

A. In reaching the decision to focus on improving diversity in these four areas, the Board is not ignoring the need to be more inclusive of everyone who is part of ICMA and serves in the profession.  The Board wants to focus on these four areas in the immediate future because they are measurable. We looked at the data currently being collected and considered how we would best measure whether we are moving the needle in being a more inclusive organization. It is a challenge to collect even this most basic demographic information (for example more than 30% of members do not identify their race). Our thinking is we can at least determine whether these measures are beginning to help us accomplish what we set out to do if we look at these four attributes.


Q. Wouldn’t you attract more members if you lowered the dues?

A. Offering several membership options at varying dues levels is one approach we have taken especially focused on entry level to department directors.  Dues will be considered as part of a larger discussion on funding ICMA.


Q. It seems like voting was the only member benefit that differentiated full members from affiliate members. Why should full members have to pay more now that affiliate members get to vote, serve on the nominating committee, and serve on the board?

A. Voting is only one of the member benefits provided to ICMA members who are Full members.  Other member benefits exclusive to Full members include the ICMA Credentialed Manager program, support and resources from the members in transition program, Life membership, and recognition for service. These direct benefits are in addition to ICMA’s efforts on research, thought leadership, and leadership development that is geared towards supporting senior executives in local government.  For over a decade, ICMA has been intentional in efforts to grow Affiliate membership from entry level to department director by offering affordable flat rate dues. Getting this segment of local government professionals into the network and supported as well with professional development is critical to the future of the profession.


Q. Why do affiliate members have to wait five years after joining ICMA to be permitted to vote or serve on the Board?

A. This was based on feedback garnered during the member engagement process. The Board, supported by the members who weighed in, felt that some experience in local government as well as membership in the association was important.  Because members vote on changes to the code of ethics, amendments to the ICMA constitution, and board elections, the board felt this struck an appropriate balance of experience and expansion. Beyond voting, serving on the board requires even more significant responsibility including governance of the association, setting ICMA policy, and enforcing the code of ethics.  The five-year membership requirement, hopefully combined with other engagement such as participation on a task force or committee, ensures at least a basic understanding of the organization.


Q. For the 5-year criteria (service in local government and membership in ICMA), must it be continuous?

A. No.  All your time in local government as a full-time staff member will be counted as well as any time you were a member of ICMA except for student or intern membership.


Q. If an Affiliate member earns the right to vote, will they retain that right if they leave local government but remain a member?

A. No.


Q. Under this new proposal, can an elected official who joins ICMA as an Affiliate member vote or serve on the board?

A. No.  Only Affiliate members working for a local government in an appointed (not elected) position would be eligible to vote and serve on the board.


If you have questions that you cannot find the answer to, please submit your question via the comment page and we'll add it to this page with the answer.

Q. Why do we need to change the requirement for serving on the Regional Nominating Committee?

A. Currently, you must be a Full member of ICMA (i.e., a Manager or Assistant or someone who previously served in those roles) to participate in the regional nominating committee process. State and affiliate organizations (LGHN, NACA, and NFBPA) each appoint a representative to serve. Requiring that the person be a Full member may be a barrier to serving when the state association president is not a Full member. It is also a barrier for the affiliate organizations as it can be difficult for them, given their smaller membership, to find a representative to serve in each region.

If you have questions that have not been addressed, please submit your question(s) and we'll add it to this page with the answer(s). 

Submit Your Question(s)