IaCMA Newsletter

Iowa City / County Management Association

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IaCMA hosts General Membership Meeting

As you know, the IaCMA Board has determined it is best to postpone the 2020 Summer Conference due to the pandemic. The board has postponed the conference with the hopes of finding dates this fall that will allow us to gather for networking and professional development.

The IaCMA Board will host a General Membership Meeting on Thursday, July 16 at 11:30 am to take action on the annual budget, FY 2019 audit report, and board/officer nominations. The meeting will be conducted on the Zoom platform, the coordinates are below.

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87197161582?pwd=SUJOK1dxYWtJckUvenhJUGxJMG11UT09

Meeting ID: 871 9716 1582
Password: 531951
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

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IaCMA Summer Conference Postponed

From recent IaCMA Board action:
submitted by Mickey Shields

The IaCMA Board recently met and determined it is best to postpone the 2020 Summer Conference due to the pandemic. The board has postponed the conference with the hopes of finding dates this fall that will allow us to gather for networking and professional development.

With that in mind, members are encouraged to complete a survey that asks for preferred dates in October that could potentially be used to hold the conference at Honey Creek Resort. Please note that this survey also asks for feedback on the 2021 IMMI as the Board will be looking to schedule that event soon.

IaCMA Conferences Survey

Also, given the circumstances, the Board will hold a virtual General Membership Meeting on Wednesday, July 16 at 11:30 am. This is needed to discuss and take action on the association’s annual budget, FY 2019 audit report and board/officer nominations. These are normally handled at IMMI and the Summer Conference, but we will have to adjust this year. Below are the Zoom meeting details:

Topic: IaCMA General Membership Meeting
Time: Jul 16, 2020 11:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87197161582?pwd=SUJOK1dxYWtJckUvenhJUGxJMG11UT09
Meeting ID: 871 9716 1582
Password: 531951
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

Please contact the Mickey Shields or Board President, Jessica Kinser with any questions.


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Career Compass No. 80: To Retain Your Talent, Use Stay Interviews

The churn in my department and throughout the county organization is killing us.  How do we retain our talent?

Mar 24, 2020 | ARTICLE

I am an administrative services director in a mid-sized urban county.  We have already experienced a “retirement wave” and have been hiring a good number of younger, talented professionals.  Generally, these employees are hungry to learn and grow, want to be challenged, and are eager to advance and make a bigger contribution.

The big problem is that we cannot keep the talented employees.  If they don’t move up quickly enough, they get antsy and jump to another organization.   There are only so many promotional opportunities in our organization, and we are constrained in offering more compensation.

The churn in my department and throughout the county organization is killing us.  How do we retain our talent?

To see Dr. Frank Benest’s reply and suggestions to help retain your talent, click here.

Sponsored by the ICMA Coaching Program, Career Compass is a monthly column from ICMA focused on career issues for local government professional staff. 

Dr. Frank Benest is ICMA’s liaison for Next Generation Initiatives and resides in Palo Alto, California. If you have a career question you would like addressed in a future Career Compass, e-mail careers@icma.org or contact Frank directly at frank@frankbenest.com. Read past columns at icma.org/careercompass.

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Announcing the 2020 ICMA Free Coaching Webinars

The 2020 Free Coaching Webinars from ICMA are listed below.

Titles link to registration information.

There is no charge to register and all persons interested in local government are welcome. All Webinars take place at the same time 1:30 PM Eastern/12:30 PM Central/11:30 AM Mountain/10:30 AM Pacific.

We encourage you to register even if you are unable to attend the live session so you can receive an automatic notice when the digital recording is available.

Workplace Conduct: How to Deal With Water Cooler Talk

Thursday, April 9 / Topic: Ethics

Managing and Mastering Council-Staff Relationships: The Nuance of Governance

Wednesday, May 21 / Topic: Council Relationships

Lessons in Value-Based Leadership: Leading with Principle

Wednesday, June 18 / Topic: Leadership Development

Managing Hostility in Public Discourse: Living in an Age of Anger

Wednesday, September 9 / Topic: Community Outreach

Charting Your Future: Developing Your Personal Strategic Plan

Thursday, October 22 / Topic: Career Development

Talent Management in the 21st Century: Growing, Attracting, and Retaining Your Best

Thursday, November 12 / Topic: Workplace Development

Sponsored by ICMA-RC, ICMA Premier Level Strategic Partner

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IMMI Registration Open

2020 information on the Iowa Municipal Management Institute, which will be held March 18-20 in Iowa City. The host hotel will again be The Graduate hotel in downtown Iowa City.

Each year the conference promises, and delivers, on its pledge to have a wide variety of educational and networking opportunities.

Registration for the conference is $350 and online registration is available here: 2020 IMMI Online Registration. Please note that a $50 late fee is applied beginning March 6.

Hotel Room Block
A room block has been set up at The Graduate, at a rate of $95/night. Reservations can be made by following this direct link: IMMI 2020 Room Block. You can also call (319) 337-4058 and reference ‘IMMI 2020’ to make your reservation. The room block expires February 28.

Please call Mickey Shields with any questions about IMMI or registration.

See you in Iowa City.

And mark your calendars now for the IaCMA Summer Conference.
July 15-17, 2020 – Honey Creek Resort on Lake Rathbun

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ICMA Credential Designations

Two Iowa Members Recommended to Receive Credential in January

These ICMA members have been recommended by the Credentialing Advisory Board to receive ICMA Credentialed Manager or Candidate status in January 2020.

Dec 5, 2019 | ARTICLE

The ICMA Credentialed Manager (ICMA-CM) designation has become widely respected, frequently requested in recruitment of positions and cited in positive media coverage of public stewardship. Congratulations to the following members, who have been recommended by the Credentialing Advisory Board to receive ICMA Credentialed Manager or Candidate status in January.

ICMA Credentialed Managers are professional local government managers qualified by a combination of education and experience, adherence to high standards of integrity, and an assessed commitment to lifelong learning and professional development. Objections must be filed in writing to the ICMA executive director (via credentialing@icma.org) and received by December 31.

ICMA Credentialed Manager

Amanda Mack, Spencer, IA
Amanda has been the City Manager in Spencer since October 2017.

ICMA Credentialed Manager Candidate

Redmond Jones, West Branch, IA
Redmond has been the City Administrator in West Branch since June 2017.

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Career Compass No 77: Ten Practices to Build a Mini-Culture of Learning

If there is no behavior change or better way of doing things, learning is not real or authentic.

I am a public works operations superintendent in a large special district. I oversee several field divisions (parks, streets, water, public facilities) and supervise these division managers. The district’s board of directors and the general manager want us to focus on environmental sustainability. While our different groups are quite useful in doing their work, I see the need to promote learning and experimentation in all things “green.”

The problem is that there does not seem to be much enthusiasm to learn new things and try out new approaches in our work. People seem to be stuck in doing things the way we’ve always done them. While we encourage staff to attend training workshops, the district as a whole does not actively promote ongoing learning. In fact, we tend to be afraid of making any mistakes.

How do I help create a learning culture, at least in my realm of the organization?

Yes, the world is changing, and we need to adapt. One of my favorite quotes from Gary Hamel is: “Are we changing as fast as the world is changing?” In most case, the answer is “No, we’re not.”

Of course, adapting requires ongoing learning, experimenting, and risk-taking.

What is a learning culture?

Learning is defined in the dictionary as an activity or a process for gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something. I prefer to focus on authentic learning which is defined as real-life learning. It is a style of learning that encourages learners to create a tangible, useful product to be shared with their world or some behavior is changed for the better. (See Steve Revington at www.authenticlearning.weebly.com .)

If there is no behavior change or a better way of doing things, learning is not real or authentic.

Culture is defined as “the way we do things around here.” It is the operating system for the team or unit or organization as a whole. Culture seems like it is a “squishy” notion, but it consists of two elements:

  1. Values and beliefs.
  2. Behaviors.

Therefore, a learning culture consists of values and behaviors that promote learning and new ways of interacting and changing things for the better.

A new or enhanced culture is not created overnight. Instead, it’s built slowly over time, step by step, behavior by behavior. (See Career Compass #51 “Building a World-Class Culture.”)

Where do you begin?

To get started, you need to do a few things:

First, understand that you don’t need to change the whole organization. You can create a mini-culture of learning. Even though the entire district may not encourage robust learning, experimentation, and risk-taking, you can develop a learning mini-culture in your part of the organization. Start in your realm of influence.

Second, you need to start talking about the “big why” and need to promote learning and adaptation. Always start with the “why,” not the “what” or the “how.” (See Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”) Discuss learning and adapting as critical ingredients to the future viability of the organization and PW operations. Share some examples of new environmental efforts that could pay-off.

Third, to create a state of readiness, you can serve as a role model. Modeling is the most potent way that others learn. Are you learning new things? Are you sharing what you’ve learned with your direct reports and their teams? Are you demonstrating that you’ve been uncomfortable as you’ve learned? (I have more to say later on the importance of discomfort.) Are you sharing what you have learned by stumbling around and making a few mistakes?

Finally, you should focus on “learning by doing” coupled with candid and helpful feedback.  There are two elements to promoting authentic learning: 1) taking on stretching job assignments, and 2) receiving honest feedback or coaching.

How do we overcome our blind spots?

We all have cognitive blind spots, especially those of us with technical and professional expertise. The Buddhists say that our “expert’s mind” is a full and closed mind. To promote learning and new ways of doing things, you must encourage your team to confront challenges (such as environmental sustainability) with a “beginner’s mind,” which is an empty and open mind.

To promote cognitive humility, Dan Pink, in his Pinkcast 3.09 (August 13, 2019) suggests several questions from Warren Berger’sThe Book of Beautiful Questions. You can ask yourself and your team:

  1. Do I think more like a soldier (defending territory) or a scout (exploring new territory)?
  2. Would I rather be right, or would I rather understand?
  3. Do I routinely solicit and seek out opposing views?
  4. Do I enjoy the pleasant surprise of discovering that I’m mistaken?

Another way to promote openness to new ideas is to include non-experts from other fields or disciplines when you are brainstorming new solutions. Thus, it would be helpful to include recreation leaders, librarians, police officers, or neighborhood group members who don’t have any expertise in public works operations but will bring diverse experiences and ideas to the discussion. (See Career Compass #72 “How Do We Generate Creative Ideas?”)

What are the key ingredients of powerful learning experiences?

In my leadership development workshops, I often ask participants to share a powerful learning experience and identify key ingredients or conditions that made the experience so powerful. The typical characteristics of powerful learning include:

  • The challenge was important or meaningful to me and/or my organization or community.
  • I had to “stretch” and get uncomfortable.
  • I was given some measure of autonomy to “figure it out.”
  • I learned as I went along.
  • Honest and responsible mistakes were accepted if I was committed to excellence and learned from the missteps.
  • I had informal coaching or support from my boss.
  • My team supported the effort.
  • I was given the time and resources to take on the challenge.
  • I could see progress as I tackled the problem.
  • I was able to share what I learned so that others could benefit.
  • My boss or coach believed in me.
  • Someone showed they cared about my growth and development.

These are the classic “enabling” ingredients or conditions for powerful learning. Any one experience does not have to include all these ingredients; however, for the experience to have a strong learning impact, it must incorporate a lot of these ingredients.

Consequently, if you can provide opportunities to promote learning for individuals and the team based on these enabling conditions, you will encourage robust learning and over time and create a mini-culture of learning and development.

What are 10 practices to promote learning?

Based on my local government management and consulting experience, I have identified 10 practices to promote learning. While it is helpful if the overall organizational culture supports these practices, you can use these suggested approaches with your team without much support or approval from top management.

The 10 practices are:

1. Start each meeting with a learning report. When I was the city manager of Palo Alto, California, we encouraged each unit in our organization to start its staff meeting with a learning report. It could be a summary of an article or report, or what was learned at a recent workshop, or themes from a stakeholder or community meeting, or “what my teen daughter told me at the breakfast table.”

2. Debrief everything. After every experience (for example, key project event, governing board or neighborhood meeting), you can engage the team in a debriefing. Debriefs include three questions: What went well? What did not go so well? What can we learn for our future practice?

Of course, as a leader, you must make it safe for people to provide different views and opinions. (See Career Compass #69 “Psychological Safety—The Key Determinant of Team Effectiveness.”)

When appropriate, it is a good idea to share the key learnings from the project or initiative debrief with other groups so they can learn from your team’s experience.

3. Ensure everyone has an individual learning plan. While it is common for professional and technical staff to develop an annual work plan, you can also require that each staff person incorporate (or draft a separate) learning and development plan. Questions on the individual learning plan template could include:

  • What do you want to learn in the coming year?
  • What are different ways to get the learning?
  • What learning activities do you propose?
  • Why would that learning be valuable to you, the organization, or the community?
  • How could the new learning be applied?
  • What kind of resources (time, money, or other support) would you need?
  • How would you share the learning with other staff or key stakeholders?

4. Provide choices. Everyone wants options and choices. People like to learn in different ways. While learning by doing plus feedback and coaching is the most powerful way to learn, people could secure learning in many ways:

  • Taking on a stretch assignment.
  • Leading a new team.
  • Becoming an interim or acting manager.
  • Taking a course or seminar.
  • Doing research, such as interviewing key informants.
  • Reading some of the literature and identifying best practices.

5. Help people secure the ideal mix of learning. While everyone tends to focus on classroom training, the ideal blend of learning is 70/20/10: 70% of learning for an individual should ideally be learning by doing; 20% should be informal or informal coaching; and 10% should be classroom training or education.

6. Favor “ready, fire, aim.” As managers, we tend to question the ideas of our direct reports and try to make them better. Unless “the barn is on fire” (Dan Rockwell, “Reject Fast Solutions,” Leadership Freak blog, Aug. 26, 2019), we should instead just encourage people to try out their idea. As Dan Pink emphasizes in his book Driveautonomy is a key self-motivator along with purpose.

7. Help people find their “sweet spot” of learning. In giving stretch assignments, you want to help people find their sweet spot of learning. (See Career Compass #73 “How Do I Secure and Benefit from a Stretch Assignment?”) The sweet spot is a stretch assignment where there is a 50-70% chance of success. If there is a 90% chance of success, it’s too easy, and there’s no discomfort, and therefore they won’t learn anything new. If there’s only a 40% chance of success, the effort will cause too much distress, and the person will tend to withdraw or shut down.

8. Take “little bets” and smart risks. To learn by doing and achieve positive outcomes for themselves and others, people must take some risks. Since our local governments tend to be risk-averse, you can help staff minimize the risks of new endeavors by:

  • Making a “little bet” (see Peter Sims’ book Little Bets) by doing a small beta-test and then scaling the solution after you’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work.
  • Engaging the internal and external stakeholders as partners in the new endeavor, thereby creating allies and “spreading the risk.”
  • Calling everything an experiment because, of course, there will be mistakes (some things will work and others won’t) with any experiment.
  • Tying your learning effort to a broader agenda (for example, the board’s priority of environmental sustainability) or some other ongoing investment (for example, an IT or capital project).

9. Encourage teaching and mentoring. Some people (like me) learn best by teaching. If someone has acquired new knowledge or learned a new skill, encourage them to give a presentation at a unit meeting or to the larger department at an all-hands meeting. They can also do a demonstration, or you can have others “shadow” or partner with them as they try out a new skill.

10. Celebrate new learning. One of the best ways to build a learning culture is to celebrate new learning. Once someone gets a certificate or learns a new skill, recognize the person with bagels and coffee for all at a staff meeting or department all-hands meeting, as well as highlight their learning achievement in the employee e-newsletter.

Learning is the key to adaptation

All local government organizations are facing tough adaptive challenges (demographic and technological shifts, climate change, homelessness, the opioid epidemic, growing income inequality). There are no right or wrong answers to these problems. Learning and experimentation at all levels of our organizations will be required to adapt to new realities.

Your role as a leader is to promote learning for everyone. To paraphrase David Gable (“How Humble Leadership Really Works,” hbr.org, April 23, 2018), as a leader, you are mere overhead if you’re not helping staff learn and become better at what they do.


Sponsored by the ICMA Coaching Program, Career Compass is a monthly column focused on leadership and career development issues for local government professional staff. Dr. Frank Benest is ICMA’s liaison for Next Generation Initiatives and resides in Palo Alto, California.  If you have a leadership or career question you would like addressed in a future Career Compass, e-mail careers@icma.org or contact Frank directly at frank@frankbenest.com

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2019 IaCMA salary survey now open

You are invited to participate in the 2019 IaCMA Salary Survey, which is conducted by the League on behalf of the Iowa City/County Management Association (IaCMA). The survey provides compensation and benefits data for the city management profession in Iowa. The link below will take you to the survey and the deadline is December 11.

2019 IaCMA Salary Survey

Results from the survey will be provided shortly after the deadline. Any city management professional is welcome to complete the survey (including city managers/administrators, assistants, deputies, and others in the profession), but only IaCMA members will be given results. 

If you are not a member of IaCMA, more information about the association and membership can be found here.

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ICMA Coaching Program

The ICMA Coaching Program invites you and all of the members of your team to this free webinar:

Promoting Trust in a Divisive World

Thursday, October 10

2:00 – 3:30 p.m. ET    1:00pm – 2:30pm CT

Registration is FREE – Advance registration is required

Webinar Topics:

  • What are the keys to promoting trust in local government?
  • How have local governments built and rebuilt trust?
  • What are useful approaches and resources to support your efforts?

Frank Benest, ICMA Liaison for Next Generation Initiatives, former City Manager, Palo Alto, CA
Wanda Page, Deputy City Manager, Durham, NC
Scott Morelli, City Manager, South Portland, ME

This webinar meets Practice 1. Personal and Professional Integrity; 2. Community Engagement; 14. Communication and Information Sharing

Audience: All persons in or interested in local government careers
We’ll be using webinar tools (including real-time questions and live polling) to make this an excellent opportunity for audience interaction.

Can’t make it to the live webinar?
Register for the webinar and get an automatic email notice when the recording is available.

Watch All our Webinars On-Demand

Watch these Coaching webinars and learn about best practices, strategies, and tactics, as well as developing issues and trends in the field.


There is no charge to register, and all persons interested in local government are welcome. Each webinar requires its own registration. Click on a webinar below to register. We encourage you to register even if you are unable to attend the live session. You will receive an automatic notice when the digital recording is available.

Having Difficult Conversations In Your Organization and Beyond

Thursday, November 14

Questions or suggestions? Contact Scott Robinson, Senior Program Manager, ICMA Coaching Program or Rob Carty, Director, ICMA Career & Equity Advancement.

Additional Coaching Resources
The ICMA Coaching Program provides resources on best practices and career development to local government professionals worldwide. The program uses the knowledge and expertise of experienced managers and leaders to inspire, support, and guide emerging and mid-career professionals.

Career Compass

Monthly Advice Column
Career Compass No. 75 

Patience Is A leadership Virtue

One-to-one Coach Matching: Find a coach, or sign up to be a coach!
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Start or Accelerate Your Coaching Journey
If you are not already subscribed to the ICMA Coaching Program email list, we encourage you to sign up for free (whether you are an ICMA member or not).

ICMA State Association Coaching Partners: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
ICMA Outreach Partners: Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators, Engaging Local Government Leaders, International Network of Asian Public Administrators, International Public Management Association for Human Resources, League of Women in Government, Local Government Hispanic Network, Local Government Management Association of British Columbia, National Association of County Administrators, National Forum for Black Public Administrators, Women Leading Government

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IaCMA Newsletter Information October 2019

Jessica Kinser receives Rhonda Wood Smith Award

Marshalltown City Administrator Jessica Kinser was awarded the Rhonda Wood Smith award as aJessica Kinser 2n outstanding young city official from the Iowa League of Cities. Kinser was recognized for her achievements during the awards banquet at the Iowa League of Cities Annual Conference & Exhibit in Dubuque on September 26, 2019.

Jessica began work at the City of Clinton in October of 2011 when she was hired as Finance Director. She served in that position until June 2013. From January through June 2013, she also acted in the dual capacities of Interim City Administrator and Finance Director. Jessica was hired as the City Administrator in Clinton in June of 2013.

Kinser was brought in to Marshalltown in November 2016 because of her sophisticated understanding of municipal finance, her people skills, and her energy in community development. Recently, Jessica expertly navigated a large natural disaster when a pair of EF-3 tornadoes with wind speeds that reached 144 mph swept through Pella and Marshalltown.

Marshalltown suffered the most widespread damage. The tornado coursed through downtown, toppling part of the historic Marshall County Courthouse. Jessica proved her mettle in working with community organizations and FEMA in managing the reconstruction for the City.

The Rhonda Wood Smith Award was created to recognize exemplary work of young city officials and those new to city government. The criteria included innovation, bold leadership, commitment and sacrifice. The award was named for Rhonda Wood Smith, a single parent who served as mayor of Garner while working as a municipal consultant. She succumbed to cancer early in 1997 after establishing an outstanding reputation as a civic minded person committed to her community. The intent of the award is to encourage and affirm participation in local government by young people who may make greater sacrifice for public service due to significant career and family commitments.

Congratulations to Jessica Kinser for her work as Marshalltown’s City Administrator and for receiving the Rhonda Wood Smith Award as an outstanding young city official.

Past award recipients include:
1997       The Family of Rhonda Wood Smith
1998       Paul Smith, Mayor of Gilbert
1999       Dennis Woodruff, Mayor of Carlisle
2001       Ed Smith, Mayor of Carroll
2002       Hector Velez, City Council, Storm Lake
2003       Matt Brick, City Council, Windsor Heights
2004       Karen Forneris, City Council, Sioux City
2005       Charles “Chaz” Allen, Mayor of Newton
2006       Ryan Heiar, City Administrator, Eagle Grove
2008       Candi Schmieder, City Council, Marengo
2008       Jeff Beauregard, Mayor of Palo
2009       Ellen Habel, Assistant City Administrator, Coralville
2010       Clint Fichter, City Manager, Avoca
2012       Eric Bookmeyer, Mayor of Mason City
2013       Adam Schweers, Mayor of Carroll
2013       Corey Goodenow, City Manager, Chariton
2014       Laura Schaefer, City Clerk, Carroll
2015       Quentin Hart, City Council and Mayor Pro Tem of Waterloo
2016       Dawn Rohe, City Manager, Manning
2017       Brad Magg, City Council, Colfax
2019       Jessica Kinser, City Administrator, Marshalltown