As my story Friday detailed, there has been much concern over a shrinking talent pool within Gen X to replace the baby-boomer generation of city managers.
But the generational problems in the talent pool don’t stop with Gen Xers. Generation Y has even less interest in serving their communities through local governments.
Service-mined members of Generation Y would rather work in the profit sector, said Frank Benest, a retired city manager who works with the International City/County Management Association on solutions to the problem.
Benest says the problem is city managers haven’t been doing enough — like speaking at university campuses — to convince Generation Y otherwise.
“We have a great story to tell, but we haven’t been telling our story,” Benest said.
To address the problem in the long-term, the California branch of ICMA works with schools like the University of Southern California to generate interest in becoming leaders in local government.
Professor Yant Ang, who teaches an introduction to public administration and society class at USC, said when he asked his students this year the question “How many of you have ever thought of being a city manager?” Only a few of them raised their hands.
“Many of them when they come in have no idea what a career in local government looks like,” Ang said.
That lack of interest is part of the reason the school decided to partner with Cal-ICMA, Ang said. The partnership includes a fellowship program, where students compete for the opportunity to interact with city managers and receive tuition help.
There is also a lab program — a specialized workshop where a city manager comes in and teaches a 2-day crash course on the nuts and bolts of city government. In one such workshop, the former city manager of Arcadia came in and discussed economic development strategies.
“This is one of the big things we’ve been doing in the last several years,” Ang said.