Tag: Hillsborough

UNC ICMA Fellowship Panel By Caley Trujillo

Recently, the ICMA Chapter hosted two UNC MPA Alumnae Jenifer Della Valle (2014) and Mattie Sue Stevens (2013) to share their experiences as ICMA Local Government Management Fellows.  Mattie Sue and Jen are two of UNC ICMA’s record-setting four fellows (no other school has had more than two at one time!). Jenifer Della Valle, ICMA Fellow for the Town of Hillsborough, serves as a Management Analyst and Assistant Public Information Officer. Mattie Sue Stevens is a joint ICMA Fellow between the City and County of Durham, NC.

The ICMA Fellowship is a career-development opportunity that places Fellows in full-time local government management-track positions. The competitive program serves as a great way for recent MPA graduates to earn local government experience and begin their careers. Last year, ICMA placed 35 Fellows within 21 communities. The Fellowship typically lasts two years and exposes Fellows to a variety of local government functions.

Durham Fellow Mattie Sue Stevens says her favorite aspect of being a Fellow is the breadth of experience she has been able to have. She has worked with staff in nearly every City and County department in some capacity, and been introduced to many different local government functions. She believes being able to participate in such a wide variety of projects has helped her identify areas she is interested in pursuing professionally, and it has given her some of the broad knowledge she will need as a leader someday.

For many in the ICMA Chapter it was their first opportunity to learn about the ICMA Fellowship and all that it has to offer. For many, it was interesting to hear not only about the Fellow’s experiences, but also their journey through the application process. Hillsborough Fellow Jenifer Della Valle shared with the group her experience determining which fellowship would be the best fit for her. ICMA Chapter President David Finley appreciated the shared insights. “It was awesome to hear from new professionals about how they navigated the job search process after their MPA degree. It was insightful thinking about the types of pros and cons when it comes to looking for a fellowship opportunity,” said Finley.

Mattie Sue offers words of inspiration to those who are contemplating pursuing an ICMA Fellowship. She believes, “If you’re convinced that you want to be in local government leadership, the Fellowship is a great first step—you can get a wide range of meaningful experience and begin building a network of contacts across the nation. If you’re interested in local government but not sure it’s the right fit for you, the Fellowship offers a low level of permanent commitment and a high level of opportunity for exploration. Either way, it can be a tremendously valuable experience!”

For more information on the ICMA Fellowship please visit:


Hillsborough Wastewater Treatment Plant Tour by Alex Vazquez

When Jeff Mahagan, a water treatment operator originally from Colorado, arrived in Hillsborough, North Carolina in 2006, he found a wastewater treatment plant requiring much needed repair and upgrades in order to function as effectively as possible. Mahagan collaborated with several fellow Hillsborough employees to improve the plant’s and collection system’s operations (e.g., creating a utility maintenance crew focused on completing preventative maintenance that would preclude the town from incurring costly repair costs) soon after he was named the superintendent of the plant.

Hillsborough Wastewater Tour 1

In his new role, Mahagan played an integral role in planning plant upgrades that began in 2011. Using his innovative thinking, Mahagan was able to work with design engineers to help bring down the estimated design cost of the proposed renovations of $30 million to (an actual cost of around) $18 million.  (An original proposed alternative to pump Hillsborough’s wastewater to Durham instead of upgrading the plant was estimated to be over $130 million.) Innovative ideas Mahagan suggested included using fiberglass walls in tanks and replacing solid beam rails with sturdy posts connected by heavy chains. The latter was particularly innovative as the chain and pole design promised to reduce long term costs associated with rail repair and replacement. However, Mahagan’s desire to pursue innovative ways to cut costs while improving plant operations did not stop there. Mahagan also worked to improve the Wastewater Quality Report in order to provide customers with more and better information about water quality. It was no surprise when Mahagan won a Bronze Award for Customer Service in the town’s Innovation and Customer Service Awards Program in 2012. The award was just one of the many accolades Mahagan has received throughout the years—other notable awards include the Wilbur E. Long, Jr. Operator of the Year Award in 2011 and the William D. Hatfield Award for outstanding performance and professionalism in 2013.

So, what does this all mean for (current and future) managers? The answer is simple: when you hire quality people who care about the work they do, it is very likely that their work will benefit citizen’s greatly by improving services all the while maintaining cost of services low. It is people like Mahagan that every municipality should aim to hire.

Hillsborough Wastewater Tour