More Than 100+ Sessions On The Way

Based on 2020 Planning Committee member feedback, we know the coronavirus, social justice, and their implications for residents is at the forefront of every local government professional’s mind, and as such, we will be focusing UNITE: A Digital event around the theme of “Bringing the Community Together”.

From September 23-26, local government experts in more than 100+ sessions, both live and on-demand, will guide you through navigating these series of crises, providing you with best practices and insight to protect, support, and lead your communities.

Below is a list of preliminary education sessions selected for UNITE this September. This list and full agenda will be built over the following weeks, so check back regularly to see what else has been added!

A Local Government Manager’s Guide to Financial Reporting

This interactive discussion will explore a range of timely public finance and accounting topics that local government managers should be aware of as they engage with finance officers, elected officials and the public. Leadership from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board and the Center for State and Local Government Excellence will cover topics such as pension and health care reporting, financial statements, and local government leases. Lessons learned from trends in public financial accounting will also be explored in a non-US, global context as well.

Speaker(s): Joel Black, Chair, Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Norwalk, CT

Building Financial Resiliency and Preparing for Change in a “VUCA” World

Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) environments are now the norm. In these rapidly changing environments, successful organizations have developed solid financial foundations, clearly-defined strategic goals, robust planning scenarios, early warning systems, engaged staff and adaptable decision-making practices. This session will provide essential tools for building financial resiliency to equip your organizations to withstand acute shocks and chronic stresses, while maintaining and improving essential services, and recovering quickly and effectively. These techniques will empower your organizations to thrive on change, augment outcomes and successfully achieve their strategic goals. A case study from Hampton, Virginia, also will be presented that will highlight long-term approaches to financial resiliency that fortified its community to withstand two major economic downturns in ten years and also advance its strategic mission.


  • Sheryl Bailey, Visiting Professor of Practice, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, South Chesterfield, VA
  • Brian DeProfio, Assistant City Manager, City of Hampton, Virginia, Hampton, VA
COVID-19 Finance Network: An Example of Virginia Officials Working Together

This session will provide a review of the collaborative process Virginia’s local government managers and finance officials conducted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia Tech facilitated weekly webinar meetings with officials to discuss financial and policy impacts of the pandemic and established resources that summarized financial impacts for federal, state, and local officials. The presentation will include a review of a report prepared by Virginia Tech “COVID-19 Financial Impacts on Virginia Local Governments: A Report on Financial Policy Implications”.


  • Katie Boyle, Director of Government Affairs, Virginia Association of Counties, Richmond, VA
  • Cindy Mester, Deputy City Manager, City of Falls Church, Falls Church, VA
Better Together: Leading Through the Pandemic

Located in the southernmost area of Texas, the city of Brownsville sits on the U.S. – Mexico border. Biologically diverse and culturally rich, Brownsville has been leading to ensure that its community members have access to the services needed during the pandemic and beyond. Brownsville faces challenges such as being categorized as one of the nation’s poorest cities and having higher rates of obesity/diabetes and related diseases. These conditions have spurred proactive and collaborative public/private partnerships to help mitigate/respond to the COVID health crisis and other areas stemming from the pandemic. This strong foundation of community support and partnerships helped pave the way in which the City led its emergency response strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to established relationships with strong community organizations, the City’s internal cohesiveness provided the support necessary for rapid continuity planning. This framework guided the City through the critical next communications steps to take during and immediately after the COVID19 pandemic, providing a roadmap for how the City would prepare, operate, engage and communicate with the community. Lastly, the City took innovative approaches to both its Public Health Department and Retail Services Development Division to support the community’s needs. The Public Health Department mobilized its personnel in a Boots on the Ground effort to reach the City’s most disconnected communities. Within three months of the first confirmed coronavirus case, the department had reached 43% of the City’s population in door-to-door outreach. The department also created a new Epidemiology division to best track the virus throughout the City. The Retail Services division focused on digitizing small businesses to better withstand COVID-19’s economic impact while working with the City’s economic development corporation to provide monetary support. Together, the City’s emergency response strategy was supported by ongoing community support, innovative public health approaches and economic development focus.

Speaker(s): Noel Bernal, City Manager, City of Brownsville, Brownsville, TX

Best Practices to Form Partnerships with Your Military Installation

In an era where all organizations are working on cost avoidance measures, it is beneficial to review the advantages that partnerships with a Military Installation can provide to the surrounding community. These partnerships can take many forms from the Defense Community Infrastructure Program and Compatibility of Use (CUP) to simple no cost Memorandum of Understanding for Reciprocal Services. The value of the partnership between Military Installation and surrounding community provides benefits to service members and their families, as well as the local citizens and can provide cost savings for both.

Speaker(s): Karen Holt

Community-Based Animal Sheltering – Using Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Response to Redesign Animal Sheltering in a Healthier and Sustainable Way

Changing the open-admission “bring your problems to us” model for public shelters and animal control in place for the past 30-40 years to a community-based sheltering and animal control model. The new model takes on a social welfare model similar to what is currently done with children that enter the foster care system. Building on the parallels of the two issues, community-based sheltering reinvents the public shelter as the emergency shelter and medical facility for unwanted pets, and as the resource to help the community serve the pets in need. Robust foster care, greatly reduced shelter population, public-private partnerships with rescues and shelters, and caseworkers with resources are just a few unique aspects of this new model. Forced to operate as an ’emergency only’ shelter in the wake of COVID-19, Hillsborough County Pet Resources had to move to clear shelter space and reduce workload through foster care of shelter pets. Finders of strays were asked if they could hold on to the pets for few days and try to find the pet’s owner in their community before bringing it to the shelter. Rescues and shelters were asked to take on the added responsibilities left in the wake of reduced services. In short for the first 3 months of the COVID response there were 2,000 fewer pets taken in by the shelter – yet there was no increase in stray pets or demands for animal control to step in.

Those lessons learned paved the way for the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center to forge a new path of limited animal intake, emergency pet safety net, and provider of support and resources for the citizenry to support Community-Based Care for Pets.

A Public Communication and Engagement Strategy for Local Government with a Citizen as Partner, Deliberative Democracy, and Racial Equity Approach

This session will provide an overview of the process that Durham County Government is using to develop a dynamic organization-wide communication and engagement strategy. The process overview will include tools, approaches, and lessons learned that attendees can use to develop a layered communication and engagement strategy that is aligned with their organizational strategic plan.

Business and Area Service Response and Recovery Planning for Secondary Cities

The goal of becoming economically thriving and resilient growth centers has become more challenging for the USAID’s partner cities under the Cities Development Initiative (CDI) in the Philippines. This is due to the health and socio-economic emergencies brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cities’ urgent response to emerging demands for health services, emergency response, human resource management, economic and social safety nets during and after the quarantine period is critical to maintain peace and order. The SURGE Project which is implemented by ICMA supports CDI cities in assessing and monitoring emerging trends, conducting business and area service continuity and recovery planning and management and reinventing city and business operations to adapt and innovate to respond to the challenges of the pandemic and the economic recession.

In April 23, 2020, SURGE conducted a three-hour virtual roundtable (RTD) to give an opportunity for CDI cities to assess where they are in their responses to the pandemic. The session seeks to provide the participants a clearer understanding of the current pandemic and the situation in their cities and some directions on courses of action. The RTD was followed by city-level online discussions to enable the cities to develop plans consisting of short-term actions and directions for medium-to-long term. Through a series of consultations, these recovery and response plans were developed and implemented by the cities. Valuable lessons can be gleaned from the experiences of the CDI cites in crafting these plans and implementing them effectively.

A Brave Green World: Regulating the Cannabis Industry in a Safe, Responsible, and Prosperous Way

No longer simply the domain of bad puns, the cannabis industry is evolving from an underground market into a legal market in 11 states and several countries including Canada. This session will highlight this transformation and how local communities can effectively regulate this emerging industry.

Speaker(s): Matthew Bronson, City Manager, City of Grover Beach, Grover Beach, CA

COVID and Tourism

Looking ahead to life after the Coronavirus crisis, this session will help you to learn more about tourism in the era of Covid. Lean in and highlight your community as a destination to help the tourism sector recover after the latest blow to local economies. Hear from Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico and Mickey Espada, President of Mabudeg, a professional management and consultancy services for the hospitality industry and Philippine Mayors, as they share tips, lessons learned and insight on what they have been doing amidst the emergency and provide research that has influenced specific strategies for a faster turnaround,return of vital sector jobs and looking towards the future to the tourism industry.

Speaker(s): Mickey Espada, President, Mabudeg Corp.,, San Juan, N/A

COVID-19: How to Build Business and Community Resilience into your Recovery Plan

In early 2020, just four weeks after Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization of an outbreak of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan City, “COVID-19” reached US soil. Quickly it became clear that what was once thought of as a public health emergency was actually a major challenge to community and business resiliency.

Responding to emergency declarations, the City of Surprise activated their Emergency Operations Center and Incident Management Team (IMT) in March to oversee this less than traditional emergency response. This included a “City Continuity Section,” created specifically to support our vulnerable population in need of crisis and resource service referrals, and to offer guidance/assistance to the many businesses impacted by the pandemic.

When the Senior Center closed, we accelerated our community outreach efforts through the Surprise Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign, promotion of volunteer activities, a new home delivered meals program and increased operations at the Resource Center for crisis services, such as rental and utility assistance.

Economic development tactics included the distribution of more than 250 “We’re Open” business banners, phone calls and emails, social media campaigns, downloadable restaurant lists with delivery and curbside options, and a continuously updated “business help” webpage offering an 8-part business and workforce recovery video series.

A spectrum of virtual and non-virtual business and workforce recovery strategies were implemented with the purpose of reducing anxiety and overall barriers to information for local businesses. In the first two weeks after Arizona’s stay-at-home order was lifted, Surprise performed over 100 “Virtual Ribbon Cutting” celebrations, bringing added exposure to local businesses that had experienced a partial or full closure of services during COVID-19. These events provided an important milestone for the recovery process.

Through our presentation, we hope to share what we have learned to help other cities support their communities effectively in a pandemic emergency.


  • Seth Dyson, Human Service & Community Vitality Director, City of Surprise, Surprise, AZ
  • Jeanine Jerkovic, Economic Development Director, City of Surprise, Surprise, AZ
  • Tracy Montgomery, Emergency Manager, City of Surprise, Surprise, AZ
Covid-19 and the Local Government Workforce

The pandemic has transformed how council staff work. The default expectation that staff work in city halls has been inverted during lock down into an expectation that staff work at home. This presentation will explore the experience of staff during this unscheduled experiment in mass home working.

The presenter will draw on staff survey evidence from councils in south west London, UK. This evidence will suggest that despite concerns about mental health and well-being, most staff felt able to work productively at home and appear likely to want the positive benefits of this experience to become embedded on a longer-term basis.

Perceived benefits include less commuting and consequential environmental damage; greater flexibility to handle the balance between family commitments with work responsibilities; and more productive work time. He will draw out and discuss the dilemmas this will pose for city managers. As lock downs conclude, should staff be compelled to return to their desks if they can work productively at home? What implications does increased home working have for the shared culture and values of council staff, and their closeness to local communities? What are the benefits and disbenefits from the perspective of local residents and taxpayers? What tools do city managers have to measure productivity in scenarios of widespread home working? Will a new demarcation develop between those key workers who cannot work from home and those staff who can? How can city managers harness a more productive and impactful staff team as we emerge from the pandemic?

Speaker(s): Paul Martin, Chief Executive, London Boroughs of Richmond and Wandsworth, London, England

Managing Through a Tragedy:  Keeping Your Career Intact and On Track

Tragic events often have consequences that extend beyond the tragedy itself. Unfortunately, one of the casualties may well be the manager’s tenure with the city or county. For whatever reason, tragic events often result in a manager being terminated or otherwise leaving the organization. This session explores this uncharted phenomenon by bringing together managers, social psychologists, and public administration scholars to better understand the professional and interpersonal effects of tragedies. The session explores the dynamics of a range of tragedies – police shootings, civil unrest, natural disaster, catastrophe, and pandemic. Panelists for this session are city or county managers who have experienced first-hand one of these tragedies. They will share their stories, what measures they took to maintain communications throughout the tragedy, what measures helped guide their community back to normalcy, and how it affected their careers. Then a social-psychologist with knowledge of the council-manager form of government will provide a behavioral perspective on the dynamics of tragedies, their effects on the manager’s career, and their effect on interpersonal and community relationships.

Achieving Equity in Climate Resilience: Data and Tools for Local Governments

Social inequity is deeply linked to climate change impacts, as a disproportionate number of low-income and disadvantaged Americans are affected by and unable to recover from natural disasters. The emerging equitable climate resilience (ECR) field has made great strides to reduce the impact of climate events on these individuals, but the field still lacks an understanding of local government awareness and action surrounding social equity and climate change. The Kresge Foundation recently awarded the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) a grant to help fill this research gap, assist the ECR field better understand how to collaborate with local governments in shifting towards equitable climate resilience, and develop practical tools and resources to help public agencies plan for and achieve equitable climate and disaster management outcomes. This effort has brought together an experts advisory panel representing the public, private, non-profit, academic, and philanthropic sectors across a range of local government, climate resilience, and social/racial equity experts, to assist in generating new data and actionable tools to help local leaders advance equity in the face of mounting disasters in communities across the nation.

Speaker(s): Crandall Jones, Municipal Administrator, Municipality of Norristown, Norristown, PA

Advancing Age-forward Communities

The challenges of population aging place a considerable strain on local budgets demanding novel initiatives to upend inertia and respond to the shift and changing needs. Many aspects of population aging are difficult to evaluate. It is critical for local government to stay ahead of the curve. A one-size-fits-all solution is not the answer. Elevating age-forward solutions and connecting multiple generations enriches the lives of all, promoting age integration and inclusion. Every investment becomes an opportunity to harness the unprecedented advances in technology to spur constructive ways to adapt to new realities.

In this session, we will explore ways to strategically maximize resources and drive innovation to advance aging-forward communities. The results of a 2019 ICMA survey will provide the extent that local governments are currently engaged in cross-generational planning to address the needs of all residents across the life cycle. An innovative GIS data driven tool to help City of San Antonio decision-makers visualize service impacts and drive investment will offer a glimpse into balancing the diverse needs of Baby Boomers and 85-plus to address service effectiveness. Pioneering para-transit innovations to advance Mobility as a Service to achieve a more equitable transportation future can modernize access to human services transportation.


  • Laura Keyes, Undergraduate Coordinator, Lecturer, University of North Texas, Denton, TX
  • Jana Lynott, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute, Washington, DC
  • Ramona Mullahey, Director, Center for Better Communities, Honolulu, HI
  • Mildred Warner, Professor, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Building Inclusive Leadership in Local Government Through Sponsorship

For many people in the workplace, breaking into key leadership roles can present many challenges and barriers leading to discouragement and lack of inclusive representation in executive teams. Sponsorship is one avenue in which we can all benefit through advocacy into key positions as well as helping build the pipeline for future members of our C-Suite teams.


  • Tamara Dixon, HR Director, Town of Parker, Parker, CO
  • Jennifer Fairweather, HR Director/CHRO, Jefferson County, Golden, CO
Cities Closing Racial Income Wealth Gaps

As a result of COVID-19, the economy is going through some dramatic course corrections and the decision-making paradigm through which companies, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and individuals must respond. At the same time, Americans of all hues have come together to hold leadership accountable articulating that we expect more and better from our leadership.

City governments need to deliver on that mandate. To help cities respond, Living Cities has published an implementation guide for public sector practitioners interested in closing racial income and wealth gaps through entrepreneurship strategies.

Cities around the country have piloted efforts that have been scaled and captured in Cities and Businesses of Color: A Guide to Economic Growth. The guide provides tested tools and proven approaches for city governments to activate the key role they play in helping companies owned by people of color to recover, grow and create jobs post-COVID. The guide also argues that local governments and other governmental institutions, not only hold the puzzle pieces to create environments that help businesses owned by people of color thrive, but have the responsibility to do so because they historically implemented policies and practices that have led to the existing economic disparities. While COVID-19 has worsened the economic divide, city leaders can harness the unique opportunity we have now to rebuild and invest in local businesses and the necessary partnerships to create wealth equity.

Confronting Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Time of Crisis: Innovative Local Responses to a Global Problem

This session will highlight best practices in combating human trafficking at the local level. The instructors — a former federal prosecutor who coordinated US efforts against modern slavery and the City of Houston’s counter-trafficking lead — will set forth legal definitions and policy responses, and use the Houston experience in bringing those concepts to life by incorporating anti-trafficking measures in their day to day operations; closing the gaps in services by providing systematic and expedited access to emergency shelter, transitional housing, medical and psychological care via strategic partnerships; increasing victim identification streams by screening for victims in public health spaces and intersecting at risk populations; adding to law enforcement efforts to recover victims; and balancing the anti-trafficking conversation to address both sex trafficking and forced labor, with the overall goal of effectuating systems and behavioral change. The instructors will pay particular attention to anti-trafficking work in crisis response, whether natural disaster or disruption, or in pandemics and other health emergencies.


  • Luis CdeBaca, Senior Fellow in Modern Slavery/Visiting Lecturer in Law, Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • Minal Patel Davis, Special Advisor to the Mayor On Human Trafficking, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston, Houston, TX
Confronting the Past: Alachua County’s Journey of Truth and Reconciliation

A discussion of Alachua County’s experience so far with its Truth and Reconciliation Process, from coordinating with citizens groups and municipalities, to planning events, in a journey to discover our past treatment of blacks and publicly confront that past,


  • Michele Lieberman, County Manager, Alachua County, FL, Gainesville, FL
  • Carl Smart, Assistant County Manager for Public Safety and Community Support Services, Alachua County, Florida, Gainesville, FL
Culture Wars: What to do when Values Clash in the Workplace

One of the things that we hear about are “culture wars.” Culture wars are conflicts between groups with different ideals, beliefs and philosophies. The concept is very real in our society and can spill over into our workplace. When this happens, it can create both employment law concerns and real problems with people working together to get important work done.
How do leaders respond when culture wars become an area of concern? Lorrie Ray, an employment attorney experienced in helping public sector employers mediate workplace disputes, dealing with the unique laws that they face, and Valorie Waldon, an Human Resource professional with rich experience in leadership city governments, are here to guide you through a legal and practical approaches to this knotty issue.
Enjoy a presentation filled with real-life stories that they analyze from their differing perspectives, to come together with approaches that can be used when these incidents take place at your workplace.


  • Lorrie Ray, Director, Employers Council, Denver, CO
  • Valorie Waldon, HR Consultant, Employers Council, Denver, CO
President’s Colloquium: Lessons Learned on One City’s Racial Equity Journey- Size Doesn’t Matter; Commitment Does

Please join the City of Boulder’s City Manager Jane Brautigam, Equity Program Manager Aimee Kane and other staff team members to learn about how they turned faltering steps and repeated false starts on “diversity and inclusion” programs into opportunities for learning, growth, understanding and real change in advancing racial equity. As a medium sized (108,000 pop.) city with a politically “progressive,” largely white population, many in the Boulder organization and community didn’t think the city had racial issues or tension. After a couple of highly publicized racially motivated events, the organization realized it had to do better. In 2018, the opportunity to change the tide and start a new path on the journey began.  What does it take to make real progress on these issues? How is this reflected in city budget policy and priorities? What about policing and police oversight?

Speakers: Jane Brautigam, City Manager, City of Boulder, CO and Aimee Kane, Equity Program Manager, City of Boulder, CO

Community Science 101 for Community Leaders: Practical Tips and Real-World Strategies for Engaging with Scientists

Community science has the power to equitably and inclusively transform your community by bringing community and scientific knowledge together in order to develop feasible and impactful tools and solutions to advance local priorities. Join AGU Thriving Earth Exchange staff for an interactive workshop to learn about community science and understand what science can do for your community. Strong community science partnerships can help address critical local priorities related to a changing climatic conditions, natural hazards, and natural resource management, including complex public health concerns, like COVID-19.

Speaker(s): Natasha Udu-gama, Program Manager, International Community Engagement, AGU Thriving Earth Exchange, Washington, DC

Corridors for Complete Communities: Austin’s initiative to deliver transportation improvements is dedicated to transforming our key roadways into mobile, connected, people places.

Facing daunting transportation challenges amidst rapid growth and inequity, Austin City Council passed a precedent-setting Contract with Voters associated with a mobility bond election in November 2016. This landmark resolution charged the City of Austin with improving 50 miles of roadway across Austin and directly linking mobility and safety improvements with the Complete Communities concept found in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. Complete Communities are, “defined by amenities, transportation, services, and opportunities that fulfill all Austinites’ material, social, and economic needs…These places will be safe and affordable; promote physical activity, community engagement, and inclusion; make amenities and services easily accessible to everybody; and contribute to Austin’s unique community spirit.”

Austin’s Corridor Program Office has adopted this as an essential approach to construction improvements. Where transportation infrastructure improvements have traditionally been completed in a silo, we have reinvented how to prioritize and construct mobility improvements to not only reduce congestion, but also consider more comprehensive community outcomes and policy initiatives. We are actively creating Corridors for Complete Communities through people-centric mobility and placemaking projects that amplify the community, culture and the mobility experience along each of our unique corridors.


  • Susan Daniels, Deputy Director, City of Austin Corridor Program Office, Austin, TX
  • Michael Trimble, Director, City of Austin Corridor Program Office, Austin, TX
New City Types for Improving Health and Equity: Understanding America’s Cities

America’s big cities and metro areas garner significant national attention for their struggles and achievements, but small and midsize cities face unique challenges with regard to health, well-being, and opportunity, and many face growing socioeconomic and health disparities among their resident populations. NYU’s City Health Dashboard recently completed an analysis to help city stakeholders spotlight trends, learn from outliers, and inform possible policy approaches to change-making. This involved a typology analysis of all small and midsize cities – defined here as those with populations 50,000 to 500,000 – to categorize them into ten discrete City Types. This analysis and provides a data-driven foundation for sharpening our understanding of small and midsize cities, of their similarities and differences, and of what policy solutions could be applied in these cities. With the new City Types framework, city leaders have a new perspective to help improve health and equity for residents. You can identify and learn from peer cities, benchmark policy performance, facilitate smarter investment, and collaborate to enhance access to granular health outcomes data. In this conference session, learn about the ten City Types, where your city is categorized, and how to put the City Types framework into action. We will describe the recent research, and guide you through exploring your city’s data on the City Health Dashboard – which expanded to include all cities in the analysis – and finding peer cities with the new City Type filter. America’s small and midsized cities stand to have an enormous impact on the health of their residents in the decade ahead. The City Types typology, by illuminating drivers of peer city outcomes, offers a valuable framework for supporting and refining the impact of local efforts to advance health and equity.

Speaker: Becky Ofrane, MPH, Manager of Engagement and Partnerships, City Health Dashboard, NYU School of Medicine, Department of Population of Health, New York, NY

Build It and They Will Come…and Stay: Creating a Workplace Culture of Innovation, Productivity, and Sustainability

Some of the biggest challenges facing executives include retaining and rewarding the best employees, developing the next generation of leaders, and creating an organizational culture that attracts and keeps the best employees. The next generation of leaders views organizational culture as one of the most important factors in working for and staying with a company.

Social sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed means that company’s employment brand is now public information. If not a great place to work, people find out fast. Deloitte reports that 95% of candidates believe culture is more important than compensation.

In this presentation, participants will be inspired to recognize the powerful differentiator of organizational culture for local governments. Participants will also explore the seven layers of culture and how to influence positive change at each level. Leaders will learn strategies to influence, motivate, and retain employees with practical and tactical solutions to build thriving, sustainable, and innovative workplace cultures.

Collective Bargaining: Basics and Best Practices for Negotiating Union Contracts in Turbulent Times

This session will teach the fundamentals of collective bargaining from the establishment of a bargaining agenda to conclusion of the contract, with particular emphasis on strategies and best practices in light of the economic uncertainties of the current global pandemic.


  • John Clifford, Attorney/Founding Partner, Clifford & Kenny, LLP, Pembroke, MA
  • Jaime Kenny, Attorney/Founding Partner, Clifford & Kenny, LLP, Pembroke, MA
Leading in Crisis

The are many lessons to be drawn for the responses from communities and local governments to the COVID-19 crisis and the economic and human cost. What have been the lessons and the leadership attributes that have been successful. Bob O’Neill will present the findings from his observations. Tanisha Briley, City Manager of Cleveland Heights, Ohio and Andrea Arnold, City Manager of Decatur, Georgia will discuss their experiences and insights into the organizational leadership challenges of today.

Speakers: Andrea Arnold, City Manager, City of Decatur, GA; Tanisha R. Briley, City Manager, City of Cleveland Heights, OH; Robert J. O’Neill, Jr., Former ICMA Executive Director and Executive in Residence, College of Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Building Your Personal Resilience

In times like these, navigating a complicated environment at work and at home is not an easy task. The last few months have been charged with fear and uncertainty. Many people around the world are struggling with COVID-19 and with the results of an extended lock down. In addition, there is civil unrest in the US caused by the death of George Floyd, by the use of deadly force of some law enforcement agents, and by a shrinking economy.
As a leader, it is important to identify the root cause of problems and find creative ways to solve them. Local governments across the US need creative and proactive employees that are also caring and compassionate. To stay resilient in a very charged environment, it is better to take time to refocus and work on ways to become more resilient while caring for all members of society.

Speaker(s): Adriana Trujillo-Villa, Operations Manager, City of Haines City, Haines City, FL

Climate Change Adaptation and Asset Management for Local Government Sustainability

Three experts in municipal asset management will discuss projects related to climate change adaptation and infrastructure resiliency that contribute to building more sustainable communities. Each speaker will prepare a detailed PowerPoint presentation for the virtual viewers.

The first speaker, Bob Hart, City Manager at the City of Corinth, Texas, will discuss the development of a Climate Resiliency Plan for his community. The City has been working with the Geos Institute to make a Climate Ready Corinth through the Climate Ready Communities program. The community has completed a Climate Hazard Assessment and a two-part Vulnerability Assessment and Resiliency Plan Workshop. Through these activities and additional research, the City is able to complete a Climate Resiliency Plan.

The second speaker, Melissa Osborne, Senior Manager of Asset Planning at the City of Windsor, Ontario, will present on her community’s flood mitigation measures. The City successfully applied to the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund. Over $32 million from DMAF will contribute to a project that involves building and expanding roadways, sewers and pumps, and other stormwater infrastructure in order to reduce the impacts of flooding on Windsor residents and the local economy.

The final speaker, John Murray, General Manager of Asset Management at PSD, will present on the development of a climate adaptation and asset management program. This program was developed in partnership with Oxford University’s UK Climate Impacts Program. Through this program, St. Clair Township, Ontario, had a Climate Change Adaptation and Asset Management State of Maturity Workshop, a data gap analysis, and a Corporate Climate Change Adaptation Plan that focuses on infrastructure resiliency.

With the remaining 10 minutes, the speakers will open the panel for a virtual discussion and questions from the virtual audience. The discussion period will focus on climate change adaptation as an ongoing priority for local governments.


  • Bob Hart, City Manager, City of Corinth, Corinth, TX
  • John Murray, General Manager of Asset Management, Strategy and Performance, PSD, Burlington, ON
  • Melissa Osborne, Senior Manager of Asset Planning, City of Windsor, Windsor, ON
COVID-19 Small Business Impacts and Recovery: Fortifying Our Local Economic Base

Small businesses and their employees are being severely impacted by the sharp economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus health crisis. Moody’s Investors Service has predicted that small and medium size enterprises will bear the brunt of the coronavirus crisis, thereby intensifying the economic downturn. These small businesses are vital to our localities, states and nation, employing 47% of the private workforce in the United States (SBA), with heavier reliance on small business in some regions. Many of these businesses will struggle to survive and recover from the crisis, with enduring impacts for localities.

This session will present an outlook for small business and specific tools and strategies for government and community officials to support small business recovery. Pro-active and collaborative strategies will be identified for communities to support small businesses and fortify the local economic base. Mr. Eric Campbell, City Manager of Harrisonburg, Virginia, will serve as a presenter. Representatives from state and regional organizations that are working to support small business, as well as business owners, also are available to discuss how local officials can help small businesses survive and recover (similar to a recent webinar sponsored by Virginia Tech that encompassed participants from two states).

The length and composition of this session can be adjusted as recommended to fit the conference program, from 30 minutes to 2 hours including small business owners to provide a front-line view.

Speaker(s): Sheryl Bailey, Visiting Professor of Practice, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, South Chesterfield, VA

Eldon Fields Colloquium: Partnerships that Last

In our current era, the well-being of all people depends on the coordinated efforts of a variety of public, private, and nonprofit actors whose skills, resources, and experience are needed to confront shared challenges. To effectively respond to a pandemic, address racial violence and entrenched inequalities, or to coordinate action on any community issue that cannot be resolved by a single organization or sector, it is important that partners understand and articulate the “why” of their collaborative action. This shared sense of purpose is critical for aligning individual efforts and keeping momentum going amid the challenges that emerge along the way. However, a strong answer to the “why?” of collaboration is not sufficient to keep partnerships going over time. Collaborators also need to be able to answer the “how?” of their effort in order to successfully continue their journey. This presentation offers insights from an original study on collaborative resilience, or the ability of coalitions to rebound from shocks and pursue shared goals amid challenges. This presentation offers some surprising findings based on evidence from long-lasting community partnerships across the United States. This colloquium is intended to encourage collaborators and further inform their efforts, which we desperately need in order to address today’s boundary-spanning societal problems.

Speaker: Heather Getha-Taylor, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

AGILE Isn’t Just for IT Projects Any Longer – Learn How Boulder, CO Used Scrums and Sprints to Deliver Extraordinary Outcomes in their COVID-19 Business Recovery Approach

The rapid shift from nearly all on-premise workers to virtual and/or hybrid work teams as a result of COVID-19 pushed many cities out of their comfort zones. Team dynamics, employee engagement, decision making, meeting management, etc. all needed to be moved – and quickly. However, instead of reimagining the work, many organizations took the historic “on-premise” approaches while using Zoom. Not surprisingly, many organizations report a drop in productivity, lower levels of employee engagement, and a decrease in quality outcomes.

There is another way.

When faced with the desire to create rapid and innovative business recovery approaches, Boulder’s Planning and Development Services department (P&DS) used bold tools to get the job done. P&DS combined the concepts of human centered design along with AGILE methodologies to fully support their business customers, identify barriers to innovation, generate intriguing options, iterate prototypes, and drive participation with stakeholders.

They didn’t start with what they “couldn’t do,” they started with “what might we do…”

The results? Boulder’s P&DS department created an exemplary approach to support the rapid, flexible, and adaptable business recovery. Rather than create an administrative and bureaucratic nightmare for both the business community and P&DS department, Boulder’s business community, local newspaper and engaged citizens have all reported the benefits of the P&DS approach. P&DS balanced the need for health and safety, and code compliance and encouraged a different approach toward accepting and approving applications for temporary outdoor expansions and building permit-related changes. Further, the P&DS department did this amid the challenges of layoff, furloughs, and the uncertainty of job security.

Mary Ann Weideman, Boulder’s Interim Director of P&DS, and Bob Tipton, CEO and Principal Change Architect and Audrey Cruz, Senior Change Architect both with Team Tipton, will show you step-by-step the tools, techniques and strategies behind P&DS’ bold, innovative, and exemplary results.


  • Audrey Cruz, Senior Change Architect, Team Tipton, Denver, CO
  • Bob Tipton, CEO and Principal Change Architect, Team Tipton, Denver, CO
  • Mary Ann Weideman, Interim Director of Planning and Development Services, City of Boulder, Louisville, CO
Contract Bargaining for First Time Administrators

This session is specifically designed for first time administrators as an introduction to the concepts and nuances of contract bargaining ranging from union negotiations to employment agreements for department heads such as fire and chiefs of police. As a first-time administrator, the first union contract can be daunting and this session will review preparation, negotiating strategies and what to do when you reach impasse. Similarly, what are the key elements of negotiating an employment agreement for executive level staff? This session will involve at least one other experienced manager or an attorney to engage participants and answer their questions about all aspects of contract bargaining.

Critical Personnel Practices in Small Communities

Effective personnel management results in top performing organizations. But in small communities where the manager wear many hats, and there is often not a dedicated HR professional, people management can sometimes take a back seat. What are the key personnel practices that a community must make sure they are on top of? This session will review the top areas of personnel managements that administrators should not ignore. This session will include another HR professional, perhaps two.

A Day in the Life of a Local Government Management Fellow

Days for local government professionals can be very different depending on the community served. While one day could be filled with committee meetings and handling residents’ issues, another day could be spent diving into long-term projects. The ICMA Local Government Management Fellows are upcoming leaders in the field who receive a firsthand look at how local government staff spend their workdays in and outside the office. In this session, we’ll hear from current and alumni Fellows from the 2019-2020 cohort to learn about their typical local government workday and what its like to serve in local government as a Fellow.

Moderator: Rebecca DeSantis, Program Manager, Career and Equity Advancement, ICMA, Washington, DC

Speaker(s): Kirstin Hinds, Local Government Management Fellow, City of Freeport, Illinois, Freeport, IL
Katharine Labrecque, Local Government Management Fellow, Town of Lexington, MA, Lexington, MA
Candice Rankin, Management Analyst II, City of Fremont, Fremont, CA
Ashley Wooten, Local Government Management Fellow, City of Chamblee, Georgia, Chamblee, GA

Engaging the Next Generation of Leaders: How to Plan Events with Student Chapters and Local Government Professionals

Engagement between students in public administration and local government professionals often occur in the activities of ICMA Student Chapters. Student chapters are always looking for ways to plan and execute exciting events that engage their members in the local government profession, while connecting them with managers. To help more student chapters learn the ins and outs of planning a successful chapter event, this session will focus on how to plan events that engage with local government and ICMA members. This session, especially for student chapter members, advisors, and mentors, will feature recent winners of our Student Chapter Best Chapter Event Contest who will speak on their experience planning successful engagement opportunities.

Partnering with the Next Generation: Engaging with Student Chapters

ICMA Student Chapters provide valuable inroads for students to learn about local government, connect to mentors and career opportunities, and deepen their understanding of the important work that managers do for their communities. Chapters benefit from the ongoing support of active city and county administrators who are willing to get involved with the student groups in many ways. This session will discuss opportunities for local government professionals to engage with the next generation of managers through the ICMA Student Chapter program. This session will also cover ways that student chapters can engage with local government professionals in their areas.

Speakers: Neal D. Buckwalter, Associate Professor-School of Public, Nonprofit & Health Administration, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI; Rebecca DeSantis, Program Manager, Career and Equity Advancement, ICMA, Washington, DC; Kahler Sweeney, Student Chapter President, Grand Valley State University, West Olive, MI

A Day in the Life of a Local Government Management Fellow

Days for local government professionals can be very different depending on the community served. While one day could be filled with committee meetings and handling residents’ issues, another day could be spent diving into long-term projects. The ICMA Local Government Management Fellows are upcoming leaders in the field who receive a firsthand look at how local government staff spend their workdays in and outside the office. In this session, we’ll hear from current and alumni Fellows from the 2019-2020 cohort to learn about their typical local government workday and what it’s like to serve in local government as a Fellow.

Speakers: Kirstin Hinds, Local Government Management Fellow-Assistant to the City Manager, City of Freeport, Freeport, IL; Katharine Labrecque, Local Government Management Fellow, Town of Lexington, Methuen, MA; Candice Rankin, Management Analyst II, City of Fremont, Fremont, CA; Ashley Wooten, Local Government Management Fellow, City of Chamblee, Norcross, GA

Moderator: Rebecca DeSantis, Program Manager, Career and Equity Advancement, ICMA, Washington, DC