Summer Schooling 2017, Pt. 6: Conference Take-Aways

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Arizona City/County Management Association’s Summer Conference. This wonderful event consists of dedicated public servants from municipalities across the State of Arizona who gather to share ideas, talk through difficult issues, and stay up-to-date with matters affecting our state. Our terrific Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation always asks “what are your three take-aways”, so I would like to share with you my three takeaways I gathered from the conference.

During a session titled “Leveraging Your City or County’s Reach: Effective Volunteer Programs” we discussed how to create mutually beneficial volunteer programs for citizens and municipalities. The City of Surprise highlighted their popular citizens patrol program which has been operating for 20 years. The program is made up of about 60 residents who donate their time to assist the Surprise Police Department through critical tasks including traffic control, street patrol, and even securing crime scenes. While many of the Citizen Patrol volunteers are retirees, some dedicate 40+ hours a week to give back to their community without asking for anything in return. This is a great example of a successful program which according to the City of Surprise has an average annual cost savings of $700,000. The Town of Marana has a similar program which volunteers can engage in tasks ranging from patrol to administrative support. For more information about the Marana Police Volunteer Program or to apply to become a candidate for the program, be sure to check out the Town’s website.

Like anything, there are growing pains associated with expanding an organization. A problem many local governments face as they expand is that departments within the organization unintentionally become autonomous. A session titled, “Silo Busting Strategies that Work in Your Organization” addressed this exact issue and provided examples of successful co-departmental collaborations.  The Marana Welcome Center is a perfect example of how the Town is creating a culture of collaboration. Need to pay your water bill? Want to license your dog? Have a question about business licenses? The Welcome Center is your one-stop shop for making payments and getting answers! Although Marana is a comparatively a smaller organization, it is refreshing that the Town is pro-active in promoting collaboration.

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, about 36,497 individuals in Arizona experienced homelessness in 2015; 6,000 of those individuals reside in Pima County. Representatives from the City of Phoenix and Maricopa County shared how they transitioned from outreach to outcomes. They strive to encourage engagement rather than enforcement and are exploring innovative ways to reduce homelessness throughout Arizona. It was inspiring to see a room full of Arizona city and town manager’s exchanging best practices and finding helpful solutions to homelessness.  

Overall, the ACMA Summer Conference was a fantastic learning experience and reminded me why I became interested in local government in the first place. It is an industry full of good-hearted public servants who are all working hard to make their neighborhoods and communities a little bit better.

Thomas Prior is a Management Intern with the Town of Marana who is learning about all facets of local government.. He is currently a senior at Arizona State University’s Barrett the Honors College pursuing a Bachelors in Public Service & Public Policy with a Business Minor.