Work?… At the Beach?… Yep!
I was given the opportunity to attend the North Carolina Local Government Budget Association (NCLGBA) summer conference which just happened to take place at the beach! The NCLGBA is the professional association for all things local government budget related in this state. Check them out here. I even got to spend time with fellow MPAers Kevin McLaughlin (manager’s intern at the Town of Emerald Isle) and Heather Stingley (budget and evaluation intern in Rocky Mount)!
The unofficial theme of this year’s conference was how to maintain services and address community needs in these tough economic times. Sessions included economic forecasting (it looks like things are going up!), budget-balancing tactics used by local governments in North Carolina (make sure to read this report written by our own David Ammons and MPA student Trevor Fleck!), and how to motivate employees without money.
I also sat in on a very interesting session on performance measurement. You may remember that the Town is in the middle of a lengthy performance measurement project and is attempting to develop performance measures for every Town department. This session was especially interesting because the three localities that spoke were of different sizes and at different points in the performance measurement development process. Rockingham County went about its performance measures project much like the Town, by rolling it out in phases. The Town of Hillsborough, on the other hand, instituted all of their measures across all departments at once! Finally, the City of Charlotte (famous in NC for its use of the balanced scorecard) is still examining the ways that performance measures can be used to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government.
The takeaway from this session was that an effective performance measurement system depends on buy-in at all levels of the organization. At the top, the Council needs to be committed to the double-edged sword of transparency that comes with instituting performance measures; the manager must be committed to sticking with the process even if it exposes areas of the organization that are suffering or are in need of improvement; and finally, departments need to feel as though the development and tracking of measures is in their best interest and can truly have a positive effect on their internal operations.
It was great fun being able to go to work at the beach. Being amongst other members of the NCLGBA gave me hope that, though the state of the national economy has put localities in a difficult position, there are talented and dedicated people all across the state who still believe in the power of local government to affect meaningful change in their communities. I fell in love with local government all over again.