Three Lessons from Person County
1. Rural communities are just as interesting as urban communities. There is often this feeling that rural communities are boring or that there isn’t a lot going on. My internship revealed to me that the challenges faced by rural communities are just as tough and interesting as those in urban communities. Some of these challenges include finding a new identity as agriculture declines, attracting good jobs for citizens, and responsible growth, which I think are really interesting.
2. Change is difficult. We often talk in MPA program about how difficult it is to make changes in local government. When small town politics and relationships are added to this issue, it can really be hard to make big changes. As a native of a small town, I understand this dynamic, but it was really interesting to see from the inside of a county government. I have a greater understanding of the benefit of incremental change and transparency in local government as well as the importance of community support.
3. Person County has a seemingly unusual amount of women in leadership. I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In at the beginning of the summer, which left me with a heightened awareness for women in the workplace. My internship confirmed that it is really great for women to have other women to look up to in their careers. As the field of public administration becomes more diverse, it is something that is regularly mentioned in our MPA classes, but usually from the vantage point of there not being enough women or minorities. My experience in Person was very different than class discussions would have had me to believe because I was surrounded by women in leadership positions all summer. These women are in various Person County departments from management, to finance, to planning, which, historically, is a rarity in local government. Unlike most of these women, I will have several women to look up to, which is great because I will realistic examples of how I can make both professional and personal goals happen.
These takeaways barely scratch the surface on all that I learned in Person County. I gained practical knowledge, strengthened my skills, and had an amazing experience doing real work. I hope that my blog posts captured how much I enjoyed my internship and that you enjoyed reading them. Now on the 2nd year…
Thanks for reading!