On April 20, 2023, the Bush School of Government & Public Service’s City and County Governance Program hosted its inaugural event, “City & County Governance Symposium: Local Government Careers in the New Era.” The symposium took place in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Speakers included mayors, city managers, and others working in local government around Texas, many of whom are Bush School alumni.
The day kicked off with opening remarks from Dr. Matthew Upton, Assistant Dean for Graduate Career & Student Services at the Bush School. He spoke about the challenges and opportunities of a career in the public sector. Next, Mayor Connie Schroeder, mayor of the City of Bastrop, followed with a moving address providing an elected officials perspective on city government and her experiences as mayor.
In the first panel, speakers including Dalton Rice, City Manager of Morgan’s Point Resort, TX; Mike Goodrum, City Manager of Sugar Land, TX; Ronnie Guest Jr., City Manager of Converse, TX; and Hugh Walker, Assistant City Manager of Bryan, TX. The panel discussed the importance of communication in a city manager role, both with the public and the city council. Bush School professor Brian Nakamura moderated the panel discussion.
Symposium Takeaway: Stay a life-long learner and build your character. A person of character takes responsibility for their mistakes, giving a human voice to government.
During lunch, a panel of Bush School alumni shared networking essentials for today’s local government workforce. took place. The lunchtime panel included Kylie Jackson, City of Sugar Land; Ken Surgenor, Moody’s Investor Service; Cherrelle Duncan, LINK Houston; Reagan Rothenberger, City of Southlake; Michael Migaud, Public Management Inc.; and Darrek Ferrell, City of Victoria. The discussion was moderated by Megan Alvear, a Bush School graduate and current Assistant Director of Development at the Texas A&M Foundation. Throughout the discussion, the alumni shared strategies about how to connect with people at events and shared tips on how to continue connections with possible future employers in today’s job market. Each panelist is currently in their second job in the public sector and each spoke of the exploration that took place during their first career position and how some moved to unexpected roles because of lessons learned in their first job.
Symposium Takeaway: Be strategic when networking. Find someone who has the job you want to have and build a relationship.
After lunch, a new group of panelists spoke about how to succeed in your first public sector job. The group included Terrell Smith, City Manager of Marshall, TX; Josh Selleck, City Manager of Kilgore, TX; James Hartshorn, Deputy City Manager of Pflugerville, TX; and Joe and Karen Dickson from the Texas First Group. Bush School professor, Paul Hofmann, moderated the discussion. The group discussed the power of consensus-building and working across the community to find things people can agree upon.
Symposium Takeaway: Working in rural and small town’s city management gives you the opportunity to be involved in every sector of government.
The final panelist group closed the day with a discussion focused on the changing nature of the workforce, moving from the industrial era workforces and towards a full-person approach to working. The panelists included Dr. Edward Williams at Baker Tilly US, LLP; Lissa Barker, Strategic Government Resources; and Kylie Wilson from CPS HR Consulting. Each of the panelist members noted that cities have become more flexible to meet the demands of new workers, opening more opportunities for younger workers to build a life they want while working in the public sector.
Symposium Takeaway: Before accepting a job position, ask yourself, is it a place I want to learn and grow? Look at skillset match and your potential fit in the organization.
“I’ve received incredibly positive reactions from students, faculty, and local government practitioners about the quality of the content and the information shared by our panelists and presenters,” Hofmann said. “I was encouraged by the enthusiastic participation of our panelists and their willingness to do this again. So, I look to take them up on that.”
By Paige Grande