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First Impressions

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By Alexander Vazquez, on May 28, 2015

Welcome to my blog! Over the next 10 weeks I will share my quick (and random) reflections on my experience with the City of Durham. In addition to my reflections, at the end of each post, I will highlight an innovative practice the City of Durham is implementing.

I hope you enjoy reading the posts as much as enjoy writing them!

Let’s begin…

Women in Leadership

Last year, the  Worldwide Women Public Sector Leaders Index 2014 report revealed that women in the United States hold only 30 percent of all public sector leadership positions. These numbers do not differ much from those reported in the January-February 2015 issue of Public Management Magazine. In the magazine, the International City and County Management Association reported that the percent of women in leadership positions in local government has not changed much in the last 30 years. Today, women hold 30 percent of department head positions and about 15 percent of  chief administrative officer/manager positions.

Based on these statistics, I expected to see a boardroom full of men when I attended my first Executive Team meeting as an intern with the City of Durham. Much to my surprise, that was not the case. Instead, I found a room composed of five women and five men – an even split. Throughout the meeting, all attendees listened to each other’s insightful commentary, regardless of the speaker’s gender.

Although the City of Durham as a whole falls in line with the national numbers in terms of women in leadership positions (i.e., 8 out of 25 departments in the City of Durham are led by women), seeing that the Executive Team – the team with the most influence on the City’s policies – has equal gender representation highlights a desire to close the gap between the number of women in leadership positions and that of men. I know the City of Durham has much progress to make in order to obtain equal gender representation in leadership in all departments, but it seems to me that the City of Durham has made big strides towards that end. At the very least, equal gender representation in the Executive Team is a good start.

If the Executive Team’s equal gender representation is an indication of the sound policies and decision-making process that I will be exposed to during my internship this summer, my Professional Work Experience with the City of Durham will undoubtedly be a success.

Innovation in Durham Number 1

When homes are abandoned, most municipalities use plywood to board up windows and doors to discourage unauthorized entry. Unfortunately, more often than not, the end result is the opposite – criminals and squatters see plywood as a “welcome” sign. Knowing this, the City of Durham has recently begun boarding homes with polycarbonate, a virtually indestructible, transparent material, in an effort to ameliorate the blight experienced by neighborhoods with boarded homes. Although it is too early to tell what effect using polycarbonate will have, several key benefits are expected: city staff, such as police officers and code enforcement inspectors, will be able to examine the interior of vacated homes without putting themselves in danger; the overall appearance of a neighborhood will be improved, as abandoned homes will no longer be eyesores; and, individuals will be discouraged from entering vacant buildings, as they will be easily visible from the outside.

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