Tag: UNC

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: http://strategicplan.dconc.gov/

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