Working In Local Municipal Governments Quite Different Than Working For Federal, State, Provincial Governments
The challenges and advantages of working in local government are often not explained, so here you'll find information about the uniqueness of the local government environment.
Local Government Pluses
It's typically easier to get things done in local government than it is at the Federal and State/Provincial levels. That's not always the case (see below on the issue of politics), but there are fewer levels of approval to go through, and there is a tendency for individual government decision makers to have more autonomy in making decisions at the municipal level.
- Some things move more quickly. For example, with procurement, local governments tend to work faster, while Federal governments work in agonizingly slow ways.
- In local government, particularly when the municipality is relatively small, it's not uncommon for most employees to know each other, and also to interact more "on the street". Small towns, for example, tend to promote more interaction between employees and citizens on the street level. So, it's a bit easier to connect with the populace.
- Politicians are more accessible. As are senior bureaucrats. More business is conducted through personal contacts, rather than through briefs and reams of paper. Decisions can be influenced more via this personal contact. Not only do the upper echelons tend to be more accessible to employees, but they are more accessible to citizens (which can be a disadvantage - see below).
Local Government Challenges
As with many things, the things that bring advantages also bring challenges and disadvantages.
- With politicians much closer to the action and accessible, there tends to be more political interfence in every day government work. Citizens feel they can use their personal connections with, let's say a major, to get a parking ticket fixed.
- Politicians tend to be less experienced, sometimes lacking an understanding of what their roles are in the government, and often thinking they have more power than they actually do. Some find that there's more "meddling", because of that, and of course, the easier access.
- While things tend to move more quickly in local government, LARGE expenditures do not. For a local government to decide to build a bridge, for example, is a much larger relative financial commitment than at the Federal level, so it's much more significant. For that reason, large projects can be anticipated for years and years, even at the end being cancelled.
- On occasion, local governments appear petty, in the sense that they can spend inordinate amounts of time making decisions that are relatively insignificant and tiny.
The best advantage for working in local government is that it's MUCH easier to derive a sense of job satisfaction, because local government staff really are much closer to, and are able to see the fruits of their work.
Challenges and Joys Of Working In Local GovernmentHow Local Government Decisions Are Really Made - by Gabe Gabrielsen
One person's take on how local governments make decisions. Gabe often writes some very interesting things due to his insider status as a lifelong executive in local and municipal government (Views So Far 229 )
What's the Best Way to Transform and Modernize Cities? The Debate in The Economist - GovLoop - Knowledge Network for Government - by Kathryn David
The Economist recently held a fascinating online debate between Anthony Townsend, Research Director, Institute for the Future and Irving Wladawasky- Berger, VP Emeritus, IBM on the future of smarter cities. Both agree that data analytics technology has the potential to transform how we engage with our cities and how local agencies deliver services. However, Townsend and Wladawasky- Berger disagree on whether current approaches are actually the smartest approaches. I encourage you to check out the full debate. In the meantime, here were my favorite insights from the participants: (Views So Far 244 )
Are Local Government Cuts Nearing An End? - by MIKE MACIAG
According to a U.S. Department of Labor Labor report (2012), local government staff cuts may be tapering off. That's good news for both citizens and staff, but it's still hard to believe that cuts will stop given the current economic recession. Probably depends on location and context. (Views So Far 254 )
A Primer For Local Government Officials Who Want To Jump Start Economic Development - by Gabe Gabrielsen
Local governments are always under the financial gun because of diminished tax bases, so economic development becomes more critical at this governmental level. Either local governments end up rasiing taxes, cutting services, or creating more revenue through economic development. (Views So Far 271 )
The Ten Truths I Learned While Serving In Local Government - by Gabe Gabrielsen
Great article on working in local government. If you work in a municipality you'll probably nod in agreement. The article gives a really good feel for how municipal government operates. (Views So Far 213 )
The Coming Decade of Local Government - by ROBERT J. O'NEILL JR
Some good news about the future of local government, and how it's likely to fare in the future. References more positive citizen perceptions, willingness of citizens to approve tax increases local to them, and more. (Views So Far 253 )
Incorporating Innovation into Local Government - by NEIL KLEIMAN
In an economic downturn that has left municipal budgets tight and the need for government services great, the interest in creative thinking about local problems is understandably intense. In just the past two years, the number of Google hits on the words "government innovation" has increased from 38 million to 1.4 billion as leaders and line staff at every level of government look for ways to do more with less. Unfortunately, the same social and economic conditions that have intensified interest in the idea of innovation have left most cities with little time or money to explore it (Views So Far 232 )
Local Government in an Era of Creative Destruction - by ROBERT J. O'NEILL JR.
In a previous column, I discussed how the fiscal challenges gripping our federal and state governments will force local governments to fend for themselves for at least the next 10 years. This decade of local government will be a time of "creative destruction" that will produce an unprecedented amount of innovation. Here I examine some of the issues that will drive this creativity and the ways in which focused local-government leadership can help foster innovation while exercising the discipline to harness it -- two decidedly unique but not mutually exclusive concepts. Five significant factors will influence the future roles and strategies of local government in the United States. (Views So Far 231 )