Learn. Do interesting things. Help others.

 

 This is the criteria for my career progress that I introduced you to 12 weeks ago. Since then time has really flown by!

 

 I chose Person County because I wanted to learn more about how county government works. The added benefit was to gain a better understanding of the challenges rural counties face.

 

 Learn. This summer I’ve had an excellent opportunity to engage on a variety of subjects. My favorite was solar energy, which I talked about at length here. Here are some other things I worked on:
I started the summer with getting up to speed on what entails an economic impact analysis. I learned that the steps involved in this analysis aren’t difficult, but as is often the case, the quality of your information and inputs will have a dramatic effect on what the results are and how the information is interpreted.In my first week I also dived into working on a farm preservation plan, which gave me a lot of insight into Person County’s economy and the role of agriculture within the county. I also learned a great deal about broadband and developing a plan for expanding broadband infrastructure. A high point in this process was seeing the Board of County Commissioners make an investment in expanding Person County’s broadband infrastructure, after recognizing the importance of broadband to the community.

Through researching IRS policies regarding per diem, developing informational materials to explain a biweekly pay transition, and reviewing purchasing card statements I’ve learned a lot about the day to day work of a budgeting and finance office.A lot of what I have been involved with this summer has been taking steps to improve efficiency through reducing paperwork or changing systems to better align with other organizations.

 

Through working with the planning department, I learned a lot about the application and permitting process, which is a small part of the the work done by planners within communities.

 

Do Interesting Things. Two weeks ago, I talked about my “Yes and” approach to my internship experience. I am deeply interested in gaining a better understanding of how things work so that I can understand the context and reasons for change.

 

Over the course of my internship I had the opportunity to spend time with a lot of different departments. Whether on a ride-along, doing research, or just spending time with various county employees; every experience for me was an interesting one. One of my favorites was going out into the field with Soil and Water while they surveyed land. I’ve also had the opportunity to consider how to communicate with employees and the public through various documents and materials. An exciting/not so exciting moment for me happened last week as a citizen during public comments in a Board of Commissioners meeting read something I wrote for the tax bill insert, which details how money is being allocated in the budget and describes major projects the county is working on. Unfortunately, this reading was part of an extended rant over the pace of a project within Person County.

Another interesting thing I got to do was plan a human services networking event for direct service providers in Person County. Having a background in student affairs, I was excited to break out some old ice breaker favorites and provide the space and opportunity for service providers to get to know one another a little better.

Help others. I’ll let others decide whether or not I have been helpful to them. I believe a “Yes and” approach along with being genuinely interested in a lot of the work that was handed my way helped me to be more effective and interact with more of the staff and different departments.

My Takeaways

Shared Vision. Making sure that stakeholders within the community are represented and have an opportunity to voice concerns or share ideas is critically important, especially when making investments for the future. Two weeks ago I discussed the importance of explaining the “why” of change, but it is also important to have others at the table to shape and develop those ideas and values.

Better Information. You don’t know what you don’t know. As such, it is important to bring people in with that knowledge. Another key part of this is having someone who is capable of translating what they know to different audiences. On Monday, the Person County Board of Commissions voted to make investments in a broadband infrastructure. Their understanding of the importance of this investment and the mechanics of how things would work was aided but an extremely knowledgeable consultant who was able to translate a topic that could be very dense to something easy to understand and compare.

 

In addition, every great idea isn’t built from scratch. We are in a constant cycle of iteration and building upon or tweaking ideas and plans to fit communities that may have different goals or values. As such, it is important to remain engaged in the work and seek out opportunities to learn more and build your own personal knowledge base.
Networks Matter. I started my blogging experience with a TV reference so it is only fitting that I end with one. I love Boy Meets World and was very excited to see the characters again in Girl Meets World. Cory Matthews, the main character in BMW and father in GWM, tells his students often that “People Change People”. This applies so much to the work public administrators do. You need others to build on your ideas and help you think through problems. You also need to have a diverse network of people with different skill sets to help increase your knowledge pool and connect you with others to build mutually beneficial relationships. As I mentioned before, we had a human services networking event on Tuesday. The most exciting part for me was seeing and hearing ‘aha!’ moments. One group started an exercise wishing that there was a positivity campaign to celebrate what the county is doing right. They moved from that wishing stage to saying: “We can do this!”

 

Another example of this was in my solar research. I certainly didn’t have all the answers, but I was able to reach out to others who had more knowledge and were willing to connect me to others who knew more.

 

Overall, I’ve had a wonderful time working in Person County and I believe this experience will make me a better public administrator. I also had a great time getting to know the people and the community. Today is my last day and I have a few more things to wrap up before 5pm. Thank you Person County for welcoming me with open arms, and thanks to you the reader for following along on this journey.

Comments are closed.