ON THE RECORD/New ICMA leader sets goals, offers advice
The Washington, D.C.-based International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) new president, Tom Lundy, will begin his one-year term this month. Lundy has worked for Catawba County, N.C., for 32 years and has served as county manager for 26 years. American City & County talked with Lundy about his experience in county government and his new role leading the organization.
Q: As president, what are some of your goals for the organization?
Lundy: One will be looking to increase our partnerships with state associations and affiliates and the international community. We need to look to strengthen our relationships with our state associations and affiliates so we can bring more to our members and collaborate in providing services.
A second [goal] is [preparing] the next generation. ICMA has already started work [to make] sure that the next generation of managers is given the opportunity to take on leadership roles and to test their interest. [We are] working with graduate programs and encouraging people to look at the public sector. [Another goal is] to continue the good track record ICMA has on professional development and to make sure that we continue to provide the resources and give managers the skills they need to do a better job serving their communities.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing local government officials?
A: You have the challenges of limited funds and unclear policies in terms of the federal, state or local governments’ role. Another challenge is to make sure that we are looking at regional approaches to problem solving. There is more and more collaboration going on between cities and counties and even crossing state lines for economic development or for the provision of utility services. That can also mean working with the private sector.
Q: How have your job functions and role as manager changed over the years?
A: I think the [job of] manager 30 years ago was much more technical in nature. When this association first started in 1914, engineers were typically the managers. Today, managers are much more the facilitators and strategic thinkers. We are working with a lot more actors. I really believe that none of us really works alone anymore. We have to work with community groups, state and federal officials, and the private sector.
Q: What advice do you have for appointed local government officials?
A: Keep in mind that it is our job to provide the best service we can, and it’s our organization’s job to provide the best service we can in communities. We need to keep our skills sharp. It’s important that we be aware of success stories in communities that we can use in our own. We have an obligation to keep the public informed and keep local government as transparent as possible so that citizens understand what local governments are doing or at least have the ability to have access to decisions that are made and policies. We have an obligation as much as possible to involve communities and citizens in the business of government. Too many people aren’t interested in local government until there’s a problem that affects them.
Q: How did you get involved with ICMA?
A: We all have an obligation to do our part, so early on [in my career] I [served] on several different ICMA task forces and committees. In 1999, I was asked to serve on the executive board. My term ended in 2002, and when the opportunity came to apply for the presidency, I [saw] that as another way for me to continue implementing some of the association’s policies and programs.