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Where Are They Now? Former ICMA Vice President Michelle Holder

2015-11-13 09.56.09


Michelle Holder taking a UNC selfie in her Aspen office


  1. What was your favorite part of being an ICMA Officer?

My favorite aspect of serving as an ICMA Officer was having the opportunity to organize and co-create with my classmates! We were able to bring a lot of fun and informative events to our fellow MPA students.

  1. Where are you working now and what are your responsibilities?

I work as a Management Analyst with the City of Aspen, Colorado, where I am chiefly responsible for the creation of a citizens academy, a program to teach people about how the City functions (for more, see Professor Rick Morse’s invaluable resource: I am currently reaching out to the community to gather input and ideas for the program. I also work on other fun projects in different capacities, including a departmental process improvement team and a city-wide task and performance measurement plan.

  1. What part of your ICMA experience have you applied to your current job?

Since I started in Aspen, I have drawn from the event planning and coordination experience that I gained through ICMA. It was helpful to be involved in planning so many events prior to graduating; once I arrived in my new position, event planning and coordinating were fresh in my practice.

  1. What advice would you give to current MPA students that you wish someone had told you?

Be confident, be authentic, and be humble, always. Seek advice from other, wiser folks.

In regards to your post-grad school job, research the hell out of the organizations you apply to. And once you’ve accepted your position, keep tabs on your organization and the community. Get to know this new place in which you will thrive.

Further, the revered Eric Peterson, town manager of Hillsborough, NC, did give me this advice: Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Learn and absorb as much as you can; go on tours, ride-alongs, read – always be continually learning.

  1. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I will have 10 years of analytical, community-focused municipal experience and will be in a high-level supervisory role that will allow me to serve the community from a bigger-picture perspective. I’m looking forward to it.


Where Are They Now? Former UNC ICMA Secretary Maia Knox

Snoqualmie vintage fire truck

Maia Knox with Snoqualmie vintage fire truck

  1. What was your favorite part of being an ICMA Officer?

The best part about being an ICMA officer was having the opportunity to help lead one of the largest, most active student chapters in the country. It was a good trial run for the responsibilities I have now, and I really enjoyed getting to know MPA students outside of my own cohort.


  1. Where are you working now and what are your responsibilities?

I am working as an ICMA Local Government Management Fellow for two cities in the Seattle metro area. The City of Issaquah (pop. 33,000) and has one of the oldest main street/ downtown areas in the state. The City of Snoqualmie (pop. 12,000) is an old logging town nestled at the foot of the Cascade mountains. My responsibilities have included:

  • writing an employee code of ethics policy
  • providing background research for a city-wide strategic plan RFP
  • working with lobbyists to keep track of new state legislation
  • analyzing cash flow for a proposed transportation bond measure
  • preparing materials for a biennial budget review
  • managing a departmental performance indicator pilot program
  • developing a proposal for a new healthy community initiative
  • participating in senior staff and council meetings, and
  • attending conferences/trainings and reporting back to my boss!


  1. What part of your ICMA experience have you applied to your current job?

A better question might be, what part haven’t I applied to my current job. The most helpful thing for me was learning how to work in a professional environment with a team of colleagues who each have different strengths and interests. Being an ICMA student chapter officer also meant learning the art of self-direction and thinking critically about how best to herd cats (students)– a useful skill for any manager. And then there was the opportunity to be involved in ICMA at the state and national level– an experience that has helped me understand my chosen career path and prepared me to take on a leadership role in my state chapter’s Next Gen efforts.


  1. What advice would you give to current MPA students that you wish someone had told you?
  1. Be flexible and say “yes” to new skill development opportunities, even if it requires sacrifices. This is the time in your life to take crazy risks.
  2. Second years: start applying for jobs now. Get the lay of the land and interview as much as possible, even if it’s just to get practice.
  3. Starting out in a new field is intimidating, especially if you want to do management as a 20-something. Start finding ways to build and maintain self-confidence.
  1. The people who make up the local government profession are some of the smartest, kindest, hardworking individuals I’ve ever met. Stay in learning mode and get excited to do a job that is truly its own reward.


  1. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself as an assistant or deputy city manager, working to improve my community and meet the needs of residents! Beyond that, my dream is to return to China and do local government management training as part of the ICMA China Center.


Four-on-Four: Trip to the 101st ICMA Annual Conference in Seattle

Eric, Alex, Luisa, and Chaz with Professor Stenberg and Professor Nelson.


A few weeks ago, four chapter members attended the 101st ICMA Annual Conference in Seattle. Read about their experiences below!

Question 1: What was your favorite conference session/event?

ALEX: My favorite session was the Mastering the Fundamentals: Citizen Engagement session. Very likeable presenters provided examples of engagement practices used in Bayside, MI. Best of all, the information presented can be easily implemented by local governments looking to use social media to inform and engage citizens.

CHAZ: The best session I attended was the discussion highlighting the underrepresentation of women in chief administrator roles. This session featured recent UNC MPA alum Sarah Hazel (’14) as a panelist and engaged the audience in interactive exercises, discussion, and reflection on how to make local government leadership more representative of communities.

ERIC: The National Forum for Black Public Administrators Breakfast was my favorite conference event. I was able to glean knowledge about the pressures I have faced and will face as a minority manager, administrator, and leader.

LUISA: My favorite session was a workshop on how to prepare for an interview. I learned five key lessons:

  1. Negotiate your salary when offered the job. This is going to be the largest salary increase over your career.
  2. When asking for a salary increase, don’t use words such as “I feel, I just, or I believe.” Instead, reference specific projects or talk about how your experiences have benefitted the workplace.
  3. In your resume, change your job description into accomplishments.
  4. When interviewing, be energetic, smile, and shake hands!
  5. Always have questions for the employer at the end. My favorite example was “what goals would you like me to accomplish in the first year?” Frame your questions, as if you are already working for them.

Question 2: Who was the most interesting person you spoke to during the conference?

ALEX: While I charged my phone, I struck up a conversation with the City Manager of Bangor, ME. Not only did we talk about the planning process she led to prepare for the arrival of Ebola patients – Bangor was the place were Ebola patients arrived before continuing on to Atlanta, GA or Omaha, NE hospitals – but also about the work involved in running an international airport. She also gave me great career advice.

CHAZ: The most interesting person I met at the conference was Dr. Huiyao Wang (Founder and President of the Center for China and Globalization; Counselor to China’s State Council in Beijing). Huiyao presented at the session titled New Challenges that Cities are Facing in China. It was interesting to learn about issues facing governments abroad – including employee retention and recruitment of recent graduates – and the commonalities these organizations share with public sector organizations in the United States.

ERIC: The most interesting conversation I had the entire conference was with two city managers – one from Oregon, and the other from Wisconsin. We discussed how different the cultures of our cities are, and how, regardless of where you are, the same core leadership skills will make you successful.

LUISA: It is too hard to pick one interesting person – there were too many. I’ll just say that I gained the most by participating in the speed coaching session. During speed coaching, I listened to interesting stories, received a couple of tips on what to do after graduate school, and got advice from local government professionals working in various parts of the country, ranging from California, Colorado, to North Carolina.

Question 3: What was your favorite non-conference related activity you did?

ALEX: My favorite non-conference related activity was going up the Space Needle. The weather was perfect so I had a great view of Mount Rainier as well as the city’s downtown. I also had the opportunity to visit the Chihuly Glass Garden. The sculptures were beautiful!

CHAZ: The location of the Conference (downtown Seattle!) allowed me to explore much of the city. Outside of formal conference events, I enjoyed connecting with like-minded professionals, reconnecting with program alumni, and enjoying the Seattle weather and coffee.

ERIC: My favorite non-conference activity was simply walking around the city. Seattle’s downtown is beautiful and clean. I was a little astonished at how busy, yet peaceful the city was.

LUISA: My favorite experience was a harbor cruise of Seattle. I got a chance to see Seattle’s beautiful skyline from the water, Mount Rainier’s silhouette, and even a group of sea lions relaxing on a dock.

Question 4: What was the most surprising thing about your trip/the conference?

ALEX: In addition to being surprised by the great weather, I was surprised to see how dog-friendly many of the businesses are in Seattle. I was genuinely shocked to see dogs inside stores like J. Crew and H&M. I was also surprised by the size of the Gum Wall – it’s more like a Gum Alley.

CHAZ: I don’t think I realized just how large the Conference would end up being. ICMA boasts a large number of actively participating members who both learn from and contribute to the field on a consistent basis.

ERIC: The weather was the most surprising part of the trip. Seattle is known for rain. Thankfully it didn’t rain while I was there, and I was able to explore everything the city had to offer.

LUISA: The beautiful weather! I got to walk outside in sunny 65-degree weather. Also, all of the food I ate was delicious, particularly the mouthwatering desserts.

That wraps up our time in Seattle! See ya next year in Kansas City!

UNC ICMA as Focus Group for Durham County by David Finley

Late last year the Durham County Manager’s Office approached UNC ICMA about using the Chapter as a focus group for some ideas they had about attracting young, fresh out of graduate school students in the area. Outwardly, our response was, “Yes, that would be a good fit for our monthly meeting,” but inwardly I thought, “ABSOLUTELY! What a unique and interesting opportunity for the chapter.”

Drew Cummings, Durham County Assistant Manager, and Michael Davis, Durham County Strategic Initiative Manager and UNC MPA Alum, visited the School of Government to get our perspective on some ideas they had for new positions targeted for recent graduates. Drew and Michael were exploring how they could create a team of recent graduates in Durham County that would lead the way in implementing the County’s new business model, ‘Managing for Results’. Their idea was to create a ‘Management Analyst Corps’, which would follow a cohort-model and be comprised of recent graduates of nearby universities, including UNC’s MPA program.

To fill in the gaps of their business model, Drew and Michael’s idea was simple. Create a small, tight-knit group of analysts to be curious and investigate ways to improve the organization. The analysts would serve as the conduit between the managers and the workers:

Durham ChartSince these are the types of jobs that members of our Student Chapter are interested in, it goes without saying that the discussion was very engaging. As Drew and Michael facilitated the conversation, the Chapter began testing some of their assumptions and bringing new ideas to the table for them to consider. Chapter members asked things like, “How would this be different from a fellowship?”, “How will the corps work with each other?”, and “Will there be a diversity of experiences?” This cross-pollination of ideas was exciting to watch. Though it’s not clear if Durham County will create the ‘Management Analyst Corps’ yet, it was a good exercise for students to take the time and seriously think about what they want out of their next job after graduation.

For more information about Durham County’s new business model, ‘Managing for Results’, click here:

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