Blood, Sweat, But No Tears
During this last week of my internship, I dived into the career development plans for engineering related positions. The water resources, electric, and transportation departments all abide by a career development plan that awards a salary increase to engineering related employees for achieving professional certifications. The engineering department’s separate plan was last approved in 2004 and placed greater consideration on experience with the City of Concord as well as employee performance evaluations. My comparative analysis of the two plans considered topics covered in the MPA program’s course work, such as skill-based pay versus job-based pay. The city is awaiting findings from a comparable study conducted by a consulting firm that will provide additional insight on career development.
Last Friday, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Concord City Hall. After the ceremony I had time to speak with the one of the architects, Jim Powell, about my research on city hall security. I also got to catch up with Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg who also attended the ceremony. City Manager Brian Hiatt spoke at the ceremony regarding the need for the new building. The legal department, city manager’s office, human resources department and risk management are all currently scattered across downtown Concord in old buildings that continually face maintenance issues. With the new city hall, all these departments and more will be relocated into one building. This is expected to increase effectiveness and efficiency of the city’s operations.
On Monday, I sat down with Concord’s Mayor Scott Padgett and spoke for a couple hours. Mr. Padgett was my elementary school principal and a good friend of my grandfather’s when I was growing up. Mr. Padgett became the Mayor of Concord in 2001 after serving on the Concord City Council since 1995. The conversation was frank ranging in everything from the influences of past mayors to tough development negotiations that the City has been through. Mr. Padgett believes the Concord City Council maintains a strong and close relationship with the city manager. Mr. Padgett attributes much of Concord’s success to Mr. Hiatt’s dedicated leadership.
My internship with the City of Kannapolis and City of Concord has been one of a kind. The independence and freedom that both cities granted me made for an enriching learning experience. When I was given a research assignment, it was my responsibility to figure out who I should talk to and what questions to ask. I gained experience dealing with the different personalities of department heads in both cities and in other cities across North Carolina. I wasn’t stuck behind the desk everyday. I was allowed to arrange appointments with any department head to visit their facilities, learn about each department’s challenges and successes, and to get a glimpse of each director’s management style. When I was preparing a report and spending time behind a desk, my work seemed meaningful. I was never assigned “busy work”.
Another reason why this internship has been one of the best for an MPA student is that I gained exposure to two different cities. Concord has almost twice the population of Kannapolis. Each city is made up of different councils with different priorities. While the two cities may face some common challenges such as street trees, both must tackle problems that are unique to their communities. Both cities realize their own and shared successes. Eddie Smith and Jim Greene have designed the best MPA internship in North Carolina. I’ve learned from some of the best public administrators in North Carolina this summer.
I’ve worked hard this summer, but I never expected to shed blood for my summer internship. Donna Chandler, an administrative assistant in the engineering department, organized a blood drive at the Alfred M. Brown Operations Center. She recruited me and during my last week I donated blood to the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas. 18 whole blood pint donations were collected with the potential of reaching up to 54 lives in the local community. This blood drive is just another testament to the type of people who go into public service. These people are driven by helping others and that is one of the reasons why I am pursuing a career in the public sector.