Congratulations! You’ve made it through another school year. Take a deep breath and relax. Then kick back and enjoy that three-month vacation. Just kidding!
I know that much of a teacher’s summer is filled with new curriculum to learn, new assessments and programs, new lessons, professional development and planning. When it’s time to focus on preparations for the upcoming school year, I have a challenge for you: fit local government career exploration into next year’s curriculum.
Municipalities undertake a wide variety of work everyday to ensure the efficient delivery of services to their citizens. Often operating behind the scenes, public employees work hard to provide quality services so that community members never have to wonder if they will have clean water in their home, or if someone will answer when they call 911. Municipal government is a challenging and rewarding career. Unfortunately, many high school, and even college graduates, do not consider public service as a viable career option simply because it has never been introduced to them. High school students need to know that this opportunity exists, the types of jobs available, what educational programs prepare them for this career, and the rewards of working in local government. That is where you (as a high school teacher) come in.
“But I’m not a civics teacher!”
Great! One of the biggest challenges of educating younger generations on local government as a career option is opening their eyes to the wide variety of work that exists within cities, counties and special agencies. Do you teach:
- Business? Invite a representative from your city or county’s economic development department to talk about bringing in new business and how it enriches the community; bring in the public works director to talk about all the ins and outs of project management; or invite your local city/county manager to talk about the unique challenges and benefits of running a city.
- Math? Teach your class about what a civil engineer does; bring in someone from your city/county finance department to talk about how a government agency forms their budget; or bring in a representative from your county’s assessor’s office to talk about the process of levying taxes.
- Sports? Bring in your city’s parks and recreation director to speak about how sports programming benefits the community and the opportunities that exist within the industry.
- English? Have your city/county’s public relations officer come in to speak about writing press releases and staying on point when talking to the media.
- Geography? Invite your city’s planner in to speak about the city’s general plan; or have your city’s geographic information systems (GIS) technologist demonstrate all the interesting maps that can be created with data collected by the city.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are so many other opportunities in local government, including: police, fire, community development/housing, information technology, human resources… the list goes on.
I have seen firsthand the impact that local government professionals can have in transforming communities. Having the opportunity to improve communities through shaping the daily lives of citizens, businesses, and other constituents makes a career in local government, arguably, the most rewarding job there is. To continue to allow high school students to overlook public service as a viable career option is a disservice to them, and to the future of our cities and counties. So please – take my challenge and fit local government career exploration into next year’s curriculum. The future of our communities depend on it!
Miranda Lutzow, MPA, is administrative services director in Waterford, California. Miranda’s previous government experience includes service as management analyst in Oakdale, California and assistant city clerk in Merced, California where she led the city’s move from at-large to by-district elections.
Miranda earned an honors Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice & Public Policy from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and a Master of Public Administration degree from California State University, Stanislaus. She has spent her career active in several professional organizations, including the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC), where she has served as Secretary, Membership Director, Program Director, and 2017 Vice President; and ICMA, where she serves on the Advisory Board on Graduate Education and the Digital Strategies Advisory Board.