I have been having a lot of “pinch me” moments over past last couple of months on the job. In the summer of 2012 I was halfway through my MPA degree and had yet to work a single day for a local government. Today, five years later, I am hard at work for the city of Goodyear on everything from the development of a new park to improving internal performance management efforts.
One recent “pinch me” moment happened in mid-July. I was given the opportunity to speak on a panel at the Arizona City/County Managers Association Conference about my career development journey and becoming an emerging leader in the profession. To go from intern-attending-a-conference-for-the-first-time to well-respected-association-member-and-conference-presenter in five years is a professional dream come true. Then just last week, I had a second “pinch me” moment. I met the first graduate student I will be formally mentoring. It’s yet another dream come true to be able to pass on what I have learned to help someone else discover and grow in the local government profession.
So, in honor of my 5 years serving communities through city government, here are my 5 best pieces of advice:
- Be authentic
It took some practice for me to gain confidence and get comfortable bringing my specific perspective to the job. My instinct early on was to simply emulate those I admired. However, while there is so much value in learning from others, it must be balanced by our own unique talents and personality. Diverse ideas and experiences enrich the way we serve our communities.
- You don’t have to know everything
Local government is an ever-changing environment. Rarely do we feel fully equipped to solve a problem at the outset of a challenge. Rather than shy away because we are not all-knowing, it is important to dig in with a balance of confidence and humility to tackle projects or policy dilemmas. A strong combination of hard work, critical thinking, and communication skills can be all you need in the absence of sheer technical expertise.
- Success in government cannot be achieved alone
Excellent public service depends on collaboration with residents, businesses, and across departments within our organizations. Our work is complex and interdisciplinary, and resources are often scarce. Don’t know where to start? Pull a team together and ask for help. And when you achieve your goals, say thank you early and often. Recognition of others’ support helps to strengthen those relationships for future challenges.
- People are more important than tasks
For the first few months of my first job in local government, I kept my head down and focused intently on my work. I’d talk with coworkers in meetings and when I needed to communicate about a project, but that was about the extent of my interactions. A mentor of mine pointed out what was not initially obvious to me—people appreciate it when you get to know who they are as people more than they appreciate a task-master. Learning that it was okay to take time to build relationships and bring more of my whole self to the job transformed my enjoyment and productivity at work. Even my tasks became easier when I built more comfortable relationships with my colleagues.
- All of us always have something to learn and something to teach
My favorite part of the local government management profession is that it demands continuous growth and development to be successful. No matter who you are or where you are in your career, you have wisdom to contribute to others, and there is always more to learn. Seek opportunities to share your experiences and advance your own development throughout your career.
Pam Weir has been the assistant to the city manager in Goodyear, Ariz., since April 2016. Prior to this, she served as the management analyst and budget officer in Sierra Vista, Ariz. for two years.
Weir’s previous municipal government experience includes service as the management assistant in Fort Collins, Colo., where she helped write the organization’s first enterprise-wide strategic plan. She also served on a temporary assignment with the town of Estes Park, Colo., in 2013, assisting the town in disaster recovery efforts from the autumn floods. Prior to her time in Colorado, she was the management intern for Avondale, Ariz.
Weir holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Urban Management from Arizona State University, where she was also named a Marvin Andrews Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She is a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), the Arizona City/County Management Association (ACMA), and Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). Weir also serves as the chair for the Alliance for Innovation’s NextERA Advisory Group, representing the next generation of local government managers to promote innovation and collaboration in the profession.
Having grown up in the Grand Canyon State, Weir is passionate about helping to shape the long-term future of Arizona communities, both through her local government service and other volunteer activities.