Women Leading Local Government: An interactive seminar presented by the Michigan Municipal League’s 16/50 Project

March 29, 2022 0:48:35
Kaltura Video

The 16/50 Project hosts an interactive panel experience to meet the force of women leading communities in Michigan, engage with local government challenges, and learn more about the municipal management profession. March, 2022.


0:00:20.0 Cindy Bank: Good morning, everyone. I'm Cindy Bank, I'm the associate director of the program and practical policy engagement, and I'm really thrilled that we have partnered again with our friends at the Michigan Municipal League 16/50 Project to offer this event, I always look forward to having this event every year, and I learned so much from these wonderful women who are doing really interesting jobs that many of us probably had never thought about as a career path, so we're really excited to have 'em and to be part of this. Really, like I said, I wanna thank you all for attending, I wanna thank our panelists ahead of time for attending, I wanna acknowledge my colleague, Mariam Negaran, who is online to help with this session, and I want to make sure that you all know that this session is being recorded. We are joined by Emily Kieliszewski from the Michigan Municipal League. Did I butcher that? Emily? Did I do okay? 

0:01:29.4 Emily Kieliszewski: You did great. You were a little reticent at first, so then I was nervous for you, but...

0:01:33.6 CB: Yeah. Okay. Okay, I saw your reaction, so anyhow, I'm really... And her colleague, Heather, who's here, and at this point, I'm just gonna turn it over to her, I imagine we'll have a few other people joining as they're getting outta the classes, and just so you all know, we have people from all around campus joining us today, so thank you, Emily, it's all yours.

0:01:53.1 EK: Thank you, Cindy. Well, good morning everyone. I'm Emily Kieliszewski, the member programs manager at the Michigan Municipal League, and I'd like to thank you for being here today and taking part in this event. The league's motto is, "better communities, better Michigan," and we try to achieve this in a multitude of ways, from our advocacy in Lansing, in Washington DC, to our educational programming for elected and appointed officials, and through one of our newer endeavors, the 16/50 Project, the goal of which is to increase the number of women municipal managers. The 16/50 name comes from the two statistics that put us into action, that women make up roughly 50% of our state's population, and only 16% of our municipal CEO's. Since 2018, when we started the program, we've trained over 100 women through our Women's Municipal Leadership Program and increased the percentage of women serving as municipal managers in our state to nearly 20%.

0:02:55.1 EK: The project has three areas of focus, training and supporting women who are actively seeking to fill manager roles, providing education and resources for the elected officials who hire them, and attracting new women into the profession by highlighting those who currently hold these roles and demystifying the career path. We're delighted as always that the University of Michigan graduate school and the Ford School of Public Policy are hosting yet another collegiate event of this initiative and hope you'll leave today informed and inspired to join us in making a difference by improving the communities in which we live and work by leading them. Thank you to Cindy Bank and Mariam Negaran for planning this event today, as well as my colleague who has done the heavy lifting in setting this up on our end, Heather Elliot, thanks so much. Before I introduce our panelists, I wanna encourage you to follow, like, and share the 16/50 Project on social media, you can follow us mainly on Twitter @1650project, and we'll make sure that following this event, you have materials and resources emailed out to you in that survey that comes out to you afterwards.

0:04:00.2 EK: With that, I am very excited to introduce you to our panelists that we have joining us today. What we're gonna do is do a quick introduction. Each of our panelists will do their intros, they'll talk a little bit about their path to local government, and then we are going to participate in an interactive exercise. We'll put you in a breakout room with our panelists who will present each of their rooms with a real-life local government challenge scenario and they're gonna try to walk you through it, and you're gonna walk through it with them to get a real taste of what it's like in the local government profession on a day-to-day basis. From there, we'll meet back in this general session room with all of us together to talk about what we learned in our breakout rooms with those challenge scenarios and then enter into more of a general question-and-answer session where you can ask our panelists about serving in the profession, challenges they might have faced in their career, and for their advice, so with that, I'm gonna go ahead and kick it over to our first panelist. If you wouldn't mind, I'll have each of them introduce themselves, as I mentioned, and talk a little bit about their path to local government, so I'll start with right who's on my screen here, Dr. Sheryl Theriot, who's the parliamentarian and policy analyst for the Detroit City Council's Legislative Policy Division. Take it away, Sheryl.

0:05:27.2 Sheryl Theriot: Okay. Had to find my mute button, and I apologize, they're doing construction next door and then my dog wants to talk to the construction workers so you'll hear some background noise. But good morning, everyone. I'm so excited to be here and to be a part of this program. And just a little bit of background, I became interested in local government as a child in high school. Some of you have heard the story where back then, they had guidance counselors and they would ask, what did you want to do as a career? And I said, I wanted to be president of the United States, and my high school counselor was not quite so enlightened, and she said, "Okay, that's not really an appropriate career path for a nice, young lady, you have to pick out something else, you can be a teacher, you can be a nurse, you can be a secretary, which are all noble professions," but it was not my personal passion.

0:06:19.7 ST: So I thought about it and reflected and came back and said, "Okay, I have it, I know what I want to be." And she said, "What?" And I said, "A high school counselor." And she's like, "Just like me?" And I was like, "Well, not exactly, I want to be one that doesn't narrow the opportunities for the student who's in front of me and helps build the pathway for them to fulfill their goals and their career objectives and not be an impediment and a barrier." So I was kicked outta school for a few days, but that didn't stop me. [chuckle] And so I began, even as a college student, and I would encourage each of you to look for those opportunities to volunteer and internships and make the most of those, to test out, test the waters on things you might be interested in, but I did an internship with Detroit City Councilman, Mel Ravitz, and from there, it really ignited the passion that I already felt, and from there, I went on to become a city administrator in the City of Albion, I was the first woman there to be a city manager, and after that, City of Lathrup Village, and I was the first woman and woman of color to serve in that capacity, and now I'm with this, back with the City of Detroit, my hometown, so it's all been an exciting career, and I look forward to having more conversation with some of you later on today. Thank you.

0:07:44.5 EK: Sheryl, and thanks for sharing my favorite story, I always ask you to share, without me having to ask, I love that, so next, I am pleased to introduce Bridgette Gransden, the County Administrator in Midland County.

0:08:00.8 Bridgette Gransden: Good morning, I am super honored to be here, I always love this event. I'm looking forward to learning more about all of you and what it is that gives you a little passion for local government. If someone had told me when I was in college, getting my degree in accounting, which I love because accounting is fun, which happens to be my tagline that everyone jokes about, but if someone had said I would spend most of my career in local government, I would've told 'em they were crazy. The truth is that I found my passion here, I didn't start here, I started working in public accounting, and what I first began doing in public accounting was local audits for nonprofits and local governments and found that the governmental accounting world is really something that I was intrigued by, I worked in public accounting for about three years, got my certification, and a finance director's position opened up in Midland, and I applied, I actually got a rejection letter.

0:09:05.3 BG: And I had just switched public accounting firms, and during my interview at Midland, I had said, "Well, I'm actually between jobs. I'm gonna be... Well, I'm going to be between jobs. I'm moving from the employer I had to the Raymond Group, and I start in the middle of August." And at the time, the controller said, "Oh, we know the Raymond Group. We just awarded them our audit job." Well, I wasn't gonna be doing auditing anymore, I was gonna be administering public employee or employee benefit programs, so I was a little surprised on the morning of day two at Raymond when I got a callback from the county saying that the person they had offered the job to had turned it down, that person just really wanted a little leverage for a raise in the role they were currently in and they got it.

0:10:00.3 BG: So I wasn't their first choice, but what they didn't realize is they were gonna be stuck with me for a long time. So I spent 15 years as the finance director here, and then moved into the administrator controller's role back in 2009. I've been offered a lot of opportunity to grow in this position personally, I think what you'll find is that you may not get rich in local government but you will gain a lot of perspective, opportunities for networking, and even more importantly, an opportunity to make a difference, and I would say that it was, I don't know, maybe six months into this role as administrator controller, that I walked into one of my team members' offices and said, "I've been sitting out in the parking lot after meeting I was just at, and I had such a huge impact in that meeting that I never really realized I was going to have, and I want you to know that I'm really glad I made this decision to move."

0:11:07.0 BG: I mean, I was very comfortable as a finance director 'cause remember, accounting is fun and I loved it, and I still get my hands a little dirty in the accounting world, but truthfully, I have found my passion here and I feel like there is no more noble of a career than working in local government, and I was the first female administrator controller in Midland, and I feel really excited to say that the Midland community has a lot of female leadership, and I learn from my colleagues in their leadership roles every day and from people who are not in formal leadership roles, so I love working in local government and I hope you can get a little bit of excitement, feel some of that same excitement from me and my colleagues today.

0:11:58.7 EK: Thank you, Bridgette. Always bringing the excitement to the finance side of local government of course too, which we appreciate. So moving on to our next panelist, we have Dana Muscott who is the city manager for the City of Bay City.

0:12:15.4 Dana Muscott: Good morning. Thank you for having me, I love when Bridgette says that she has a passion for this job, I think you'll find that the four of us all have a passion for what we're doing 'cause we talk quite frequently and we know each other's feelings about this. So I am the city manager for the City of Bay City, I have been here with the city for about 22 years, prior to that, I worked for a township for about 11, so do the math, I was at Saginaw Valley State University, I was 20 years old, I was actually going to school for marketing. Somehow I ended up on the path of local government. There was a job opening at the township that a friend of a friend shared with me, and it was an entry-level position, it was in the clerk's office, so I applied and I got the job and I worked my way up through there.

0:13:08.5 DM: So it was nice because I did get my hands dirty, like Bridgette said, I started at the ground level and worked my way up through the local government chain, so I came to Bay City to be their city clerk here, so worked many, many years around elections, and God bless clerks in our organizations because just of what they're going through, and if anybody can understand, I think I can at this point, so I came here as city clerk and then I transitioned quickly into deputy city manager/city clerk, 'cause sometimes we all hold a couple hats, and then I watched a few managers come and go, and I was taking everything in on what they were doing and basically listening and learning what to do and what not to do, if I can be completely honest, and I was assigned interim manager quite a few times.

0:14:04.7 DM: It just wasn't the right time for me to put my hat in that ring, I had boys that were in school and wanted to keep attending some of their events because obviously family is really important. When they got into college, that's when I decided it was my turn to put my hat in, and it worked out well, I did get the job, I was appointed to the manager position four years ago, and I too was the first manager in Bay City as a woman, so that's huge. I will tell you that, just a quick little sound advice that I got from a commissioner a couple years ago, it was during my review and we were talking, and I was always the only woman at the table as I'm sure some of my cohorts are, you're typically department heads, even though we've changed that since I've been in, and I think the rest of 'em have done the same thing.

0:15:00.4 DM: You're the only woman sitting at the table and sometimes you get overlooked a little bit as far as your opinion, and she said to me one day, and I'll never forget that she said, "Dana, you need to find your voice. Find your voice, I see it working in your head, but you need to find your voice." And I did, and I haven't shut up, so it's just the way it works but you just have to have that little push from somebody who sees something in you and just to find that voice, so like Bridgette said, love what I do, I wouldn't change less 30-some years of my life working in local government, I'd do it all over again, so thanks.

0:15:37.4 EK: Thank you so much, Dana, and we will move to our final panelist today, and that is Melissa Marsh, the city manager for City of Madison Heights.

0:15:48.6 Melissa Marsh: Hi, it's a pleasure to be back with you today, I think you're gonna hear in my story the same things that the wonderful ladies that have gone before me have said. You're actually gonna think you've heard this story before because my tale very closely follows the path that Bridgette explained to you. When I was in college getting my master's degree at accounting, I didn't even know local government was a career option, never had crossed my mind, I don't know who thought ran the city but I never considered there was an opportunity for me, and then I saw a position for an accountant at the local Knoxville County actually, so I went to work there and within just a short period of time, maybe a month, we had a natural disaster, and being low person on the totem pole, I was tasked with going out and walking up and down the streets, getting all the money from FEMA for our residents and for our county that I could, and it really set off my passion.

0:16:41.4 MM: I felt like... I saw firsthand actually, that the decisions that I make, no matter how small, affect the residents in this community, and how much effort I put into my job affects them more so than any other level of government, I think. More so than what happens in the federal government most of the time. So I did leave, I left local government and went back into private accounting when I moved to Michigan but it was not my fit, it was not where I was supposed to be, and I immediately left and returned back to the municipal government, I did take a pay cut to do that but I by far have been rewarded 10 times over in what I get on a daily basis doing this job.

0:17:20.0 MM: So I was a finance director. I've been at Madison Heights for about 17 years now. Started out as a finance director, keep getting promoted just because, in my opinion, you can't really do anything without money, and I was involved in everything coming and going, and pretty much in municipal government, especially during the recession, when we downsized, you could do as much work as you wanted to, so I took on every new project coming and going, I was a construction manager for a library, I barely know how to hammer a nail, but it ended up being successful, and when the opportunity came up to be the city manager, I did pass up the first time, not for personal reasons, just lack of self-confidence I think, and some of my city council people, not to their, negative, but they didn't even really know who I was or what I did because as to Dana's point, I was always the only woman in the room, I sat off to the side, I would go to the meetings and sit against the wall instead of at the table, which is really symbolic of where you need to be, take your seat at the table.

0:18:25.1 MM: And so once I found my voice and started speaking up, people were like, "Hey, who is this person?" The city manager before me retired and I was put in an interim role, and I really saw that as, "This is my opportunity to make my mark." I had learned from the mistakes of the people before me and I had seen the things that had worked before, just like Dana said, and I thought, "I'm not gonna let one day pass me by without me putting my mark on this community." It has been wildly successful. Just last night, unsolicited from me, city council had a close session to tell me what a great job that I was doing, and completely blindsided me because I mean, I knew I was doing a good job, but I didn't ask them to, and I always feel like you don't ask what you don't give. What you don't ask for. You don't get what you don't ask for, but that's not true. When you're doing a good job people know it, my residents know it, and I constantly get feedback, and it is just really my passion, and it's invaluable.

0:19:28.0 EK: Well, thank you so much, I think... How's my audio? I'm looking at Heather because I can see her. Still a little weird? It's okay? 

0:19:36.9 MM: It sounds better. Yeah, it was coming in like...

0:19:43.1 EK: Great, well, I'm next to a construction site too, I share that with Sheryl today, so hopefully it lasts for the rest of our session, but luckily at this time, we're actually gonna go into our breakout room, so we're gonna split all of you attendees up. You will be put into a breakout room led by one of our panelists who will present you with a local government challenge scenario that you're gonna walk through, and we'll meet back here to go over what you learned in those rooms and do some more general Q&A about the profession and local government management, so looking forward to what you learn. We'll see you soon.

0:20:18.9 EK: I think most of us are back. We're gonna go ahead and get started back on our general question and answer portion, I think we're gonna continue adding folks as they come outta the breakout rooms, but we hope you learned a lot, and we actually wanna hear what you talked about in your breakout room, so I'm gonna call in our panelists to either just give us a very snippet of maybe the most interesting scenario they went over or an interesting tidbit from the discussion, or if you recognize somebody from your breakout room that you wanna call on to talk about what was discussed, please feel free to do that, so why don't we go ahead. Since I was just in this breakout room, Sheryl, why don't we go ahead and start with you? 


0:21:19.4 EK: Oh no, you're muted.

0:21:25.2 ST: Okay that worked. Alright, so we had some good discussion, and did you want to talk about the scenario or just general conversation? 

0:21:33.2 EK: Either. If there's something that stands out to you that you wanna share with the group, that works too.

0:21:38.7 ST: Well, we had some good questions, and I guess the two scenarios that we had were similar in that, it's like, "What's the proper procedure and what's the roles and boundaries when you're a government official?" And so we had some good questions, and I didn't know if anyone wanted to offer any perspectives from our conversations. I think we had Asha. Who else was there? 

0:22:12.7 Speaker 8: I can share. A perspective that I remember from our conversations was not assuming, in one of the first scenarios, just because an employee is taking equipment from a local government entity that they are doing work at home with that 'cause there can be a lot of different scenarios that may or may not occur at home, whether they're sick or whether they are actually utilizing that equipment for work, and another point that stuck out to me, which is Dr. Sheryl sharing her perspective on how important it is to know the policy of the local government that you're working for so that when you go in the community, you're representing who you work for in the city.

0:23:00.7 ST: Very much so. One other thing I want to mention, there seemed to be a lot of interest in how to connect with organizations and local officials for those who are interested in either a pipeline to a career or just learning more about local government and their local officials. So Emily, thank you for making this connection with the university, but I think there's definitely interest around, how can individual students connect and become more involved and engaged? 

0:23:34.2 EK: Well, we have lots of ways, so we're happy to connect anyone who's interested with opportunities, of course, thanks, Sheryl. Next, we'll go to Bridgette.

0:23:46.4 BG: Okay, awesome. We did scenario one after getting to know each other a little bit more, and I was really impressed with the group, and in my group was Maria, Heidi, Siana, and Kate, and they all touched on some really good points about a complaint from a union board and how their initial reaction would be to make sure that the union felt like they were being heard, and really doing a lot of listening, and then we talked about some other things to consider, but I will open it up to those ladies and see if they have anything else they'd like to add. Maria, Heidi, Siana, and Kate. No? Yes? 

0:24:39.7 EK: Well, the funny thing about your group, at least when I popped in is that you had a group of a lot of our Women's Municipal Leadership Program graduates, so for all of these students who are on with us today, we also sent out, the league did, this opportunity to our Women's Municipal Leadership Program grads, so a bunch of them are here, quite a bit in the room with them, and you had quite a few, so I'm excited...

0:25:06.0 BG: For me, I think? Yeah? 

0:25:07.6 EK: Yeah.

0:25:08.8 BG: And Kate is actually working as an intern on Capitol Hill for Congressman Kildee's office, so they all have had some experience in local government, which was really nice at.

0:25:18.7 ST: Did Kate also tell you that she comes from an accounting background, Bridgette? Did she geek out with you about accounting? 

0:25:25.9 BG: Yes. Taxes, which I dislike wholeheartedly, so I said she could have all the tax work in the world. It was a great opportunity to explore with these ladies, and I love how much they love working in local government.

0:25:48.2 Chelsea: And as a student, I just wanna pop in here. As a student, it was really great to not only learn from you, Bridgette, but everyone in the room.

0:25:57.3 BG: Thank you.

0:26:00.5 Chelsea: As a student and as someone who's interested in local government, starting my career in public service, just really wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you. This is really informative and really helpful, so thank you.

0:26:13.2 EK: Thank you. Alright, well, let's hear from Dana next, Dana and her group.

0:26:22.2 DM: Sure, so we got to do a couple of different scenarios, but I think we'll just focus on one, so I had in the room with me Chelsea, Ann, and Abigail and Christina, it was a great conversation. Of course, we started to go off into other avenues about local government, and Emily and Cindy were able to join us as well. The one scenario that we did talk about is about an employee who... You're done at 5 o'clock, but they're taking their laptop home at night, and they never recorded their hours that they had worked at night, so you never asked, and then they left because they were mad that they didn't get a raise and they ended up filing a lawsuit for all their hours that they worked at night, so we talked about both aspects about it, about communication upfront is probably the most important thing between yourself and your employees, and making sure that expectations are out there on, are they supposed to be working? What are you doing at night on the laptop? Leading by example as a supervisor, but I'm gonna ask if any of them want to comment on that scenario, out of those? I know Christina can't because she's working, so she's listening, but Chelsea, Ann, or Abigail? One of you? Chelsea is.

0:27:51.0 S10: I can jump in, and this is to boost Christina's comment. Actually, she was participating amazingly in the chat, [0:28:00.0] ____ her to do, but she really encouraged employees to reach out to their supervisor if they feel behind or they feel like they need to get put in extra time as well, and leadership can ask and should offer help or extensions or have a conversation around that in addition to the other things that Dana mentioned.

0:28:30.4 DM: Yeah. Ann or Abigail, are you good? 

0:28:33.1 S11: Yeah, I think the only thing in addition we talked about was increasing communication.

0:28:41.4 DM: Yeah, that's really important, I guess, just be very clear upfront with your employees on what your expectations are. I did share a quick story about working late at night myself, and employees feeling that they have to respond to you when you're emailing them at 11 o'clock, and that's just... I had to learn myself not to do that anymore because I felt like I was putting them in a bad position to answer me at night, which is not what my intent was, my intent was to get what I needed done on my half. So you have to weigh that out a little bit, so that's it. So we're all set, Emily.

0:29:18.3 EK: Thanks, Dana. I'm guilty of that myself. That's why I was gonna schedule my emails to go out the next morning.

0:29:25.1 DM: I do the same. I do the same now. Yes.

0:29:30.8 EK: Alright, well, Melissa, why don't you go ahead and close this out? What did you talk about in your breakout.

0:29:36.9 MM: Sure. We ended up talking about numerous different things that started with my scenario, which was an exact situation that I had lived through about two months ago, when the meteorologists in the area were forecasting snow again, that ended up being a whole 3 inches here, but it started out as 18 and kept changing, so we talked about that and really how you have to balance the different employee groups because Madison like most communities, I feel like, at least in this part of the state, we're heavily unionized, all of our employees are union with the exception of about six people. So we talked about that, but I will open it up and see if the group has anything they want to add. Nobody? 

0:30:28.3 S12: I'd be happy to jump in a little bit here. Some of the points that Melissa brought out were very good ones because we are in a service industry, we have to serve our communities, and it's not like when we were in school and it was a snow day and, "Yeah, snow is coming, things are gonna be shut down, we still need to be open and we need a leader to set that example. In a community that I worked for, it was quite easy for the manager to say, "Okay, we're gonna close down," or whatever, but it's important at least at a minimum to have a skeleton crew and have the phones forward, like a covid situation, when we were working remotely, but first and foremost, we have to still provide those services to our community, and leading by example is the best way to do it.

0:31:29.9 MM: So a few other things that we did talk about unrelated to my particular scenario was just the importance of communication to your residents and getting out in front of critical situations, whether that be a snowstorm and you are gonna close or in Madison Heights in particular, we had a green OOH situation, as some of you may be familiar with, so getting out in front of that and just letting the people know what's going on and putting their mind at ease, because in local government, that's really one of our purposes, is to be advocates for our residents. And then along the same lines, we had some questions about, how do people get involved, and how would they investigate career opportunities in local government? Which is a problem we're facing on the opposite side, how do we recruit people into local government? So I really would just encourage everyone to add a minimum, follow communities that you're interested in on social media, on LinkedIn, I try to share all of our job openings that way, connect with the city managers or HR directors, finance directors on these different social media platforms, it doesn't take any time to swap past them if you're not interested but you never know when they're gonna post something that might pique your interest career-wise.

0:32:43.7 EK: Thanks, Melissa, such a great point about following those communities you'd be interested in. And I know that U of M and Cindy have done some work to advertise some of the opportunities available to their students too, so we certainly appreciate that as well in that connection, so it sounds like a lot of great conversation in all of our breakout rooms, we're actually gonna open it up to our general question answer now, so if you are an attendee and you have a question for one of our panelists, you can feel free to use the "raise your hand" feature here on Zoom or post your question in the chat, but I am just gonna go ahead and start off by asking our panelists, any of them can jump in. As we're talking to a room mainly of students or women who are not quite in the city manager role, but interested in that profession, what should they be thinking about and doing now to prepare for that opportunity as it might come to them? So any of our panelists can jump in on this one.

0:33:46.3 MM: I would say, do everything you can get your hands on to broaden your experience, jump into any project, volunteer to be the go-between on projects, I really just think that... We talked about it a little bit in our breakout, about how when you end up in the city manager roles, you really need to become a jack of all trades, a little bit about things you never expected to know about. Just like Melissa said, she learned about construction, Dana's learned about construction, Sheryl's probably learned about... I'm an accountant by trade, but I know about our veterans organization, and we have mosquito control suppression, and don't ask me too much about that, but I can give you a little basic information on mosquito control suppression, you need to learn about the courts and the various branches of government, so the more you can dip your toes into all those various areas of oversight, the more well-rounded you are and the more prepared you are to take on these roles. You don't need to know it all, you just need to know about it enough and who you can go to to get the answers.

0:35:00.0 ST: Yes, definitely volunteering, offering to be involved in any project that's ongoing, as well as another form of volunteerism is the various boards and commissions, there are dozens of them in every municipality, and they often are looking for people from the local level all the way up to the state level, so there's a wealth of opportunity to become involved in local government.

0:35:32.2 EK: And so we do have a question that's come into the chat, I'm gonna start with Dana on this one because I think she sort of answered a little bit of this in her own breakout room. But, Dana, what's your advice for managing work/life balance? I know we talked in your breakout room particularly about how the climate and government has changed, and it is a lot and you can get tired, so what's your advice? What works for you? What do you recommend for people who are just entering the field? 

0:36:01.2 DM: Sure, so a couple of different things, you can talk about, you're raising a family and trying to run a city or a commy, it's tough, you have to understand that you have to do self-care, that's very, very important, to take care of yourself, because if you don't, you can't take care of your community, so you have to take care of yourself first, and I try and carve out about some point of the day, like I know Bridgette does because she meets with her women friends and you guys exercise, and you have to take time out to do those things, and you're right, we're under a microscope now more than ever.

0:36:41.7 DM: I feel like since covid, we're pushing out information more than we average it in my 30-some years of government. Like I said earlier, covid, that was one good thing that came out about covid was us being able to do things from home and still running a community, which was difficult in a sense, but it worked. Would I do it forever? No, because I like to be in front of people, so I'm a people person, I wanna talk to somebody to their face, but yeah, you really have to do what's right for you, and I think that's the best advice. You do what's right for you, what feels good for you in trying to be with your family and... And my family members, you guys, my boys have grown up with me in local government my whole life, they helped me do sample ballots when I was a clerk. We would do things together, my kids would come to board meetings if I didn't have a babysitter, they would sit in the audience of people, so unfortunately, that's how we react to things, so my family, they're part of local government just as much as I am.

0:37:55.0 EK: Bridgette, I know I'm gonna butcher this, but you've totally done a lot of work and you got certified and... Name it for me 'cause again, I'm gonna butcher...

0:38:05.2 BG: Positive psychology.

0:38:08.0 EK: Yeah, it's positive psychology. What insight you have to offer in this arena for women who are interested in roles like yours? 

0:38:16.4 BG: So I would say I became certified in Applied Positive Psychology back in 2018. A group of about 40 of us in Midland, we actually brought the training here. Since then, we probably have had... Well, we had a training that started in 2020 that ended up being mainly virtual after the first two months of classes, it's a six-month program, there's also a three-month program, we now have about 120-plus people certified in applied positive psychology or wellbeing in Midland, and I would say, just to follow on, part of that, and Dana's observation about self-care is really important, but I would also say that one of the things that has helped me the most, even more since that very specific training in wellbeing, is to manage expectations more than anything, and that includes my own expectations.

0:39:15.7 BG: I don't really think that there is such a thing as work/life balance because we can't separate our personal lives from work and we can't separate work from our personal lives. Do I have times where I have to dedicate a lot more of my time to my work, and are there times when I can dedicate a lot more of my time to my personal life and my family? The answer is yes, and the best way for me mentally to manage that is by managing that expectation that I have for myself and for the people that are close to me, including my team members, including my family and my friends, and one of the things that... And that's one of the things that we talk a lot about in positive psychology, is strength-based training and understanding what your strengths are, so one of the things I would tell you for just something fun to do, and let me quickly find the link and I will put it in the chat, and that is if you have not ever taken the VIA strengths assessment, you should.

0:40:27.0 BG: And VIA stands for Values in Action, and I will put it right here. Values in Action strengths assessment survey is basically a survey of questions, doesn't take a long time, and you'll get a free report, there is a report you can pay for, there is extra information in there if you're a data geek and a numbers person like I am, and I wanted... I just wanted more, I wanted more details, so I paid $50 for the report, or 25 or whatever it was, but the free report gives you essentially a list of 24 different character strengths and puts them in order for you. The top five are what we would call your character strength... Or your key strengths or your signature strengths, it doesn't mean that the other 19 are weaknesses, it just means they're lesser strengths.

0:41:25.0 BG: And one of the things that we work really hard on in positive psychology is not talking about weaknesses, but talking about people's lesser strengths, it's different than strengths finders, Miriam, so if you've done one, it shouldn't preclude you from doing the other one. The expanded report will give you a little bit of more detail about things that you can do to try and hone some of your lesser strengths if that's what you're interested in doing but our signature strengths are things we get energy from, the things that come natural to us that really just give us energy, and I think it's insightful. And actually, Emily, it might be something that the 16/50 class could do, and then if you wanted to, I could talk to them about it afterwards, but it's just great water-cooler discussion for you and your teams.

0:42:26.3 BG: It's also, for me as a manager, I had all of my... I did that strengths training 'cause I do facilitate that too, but I did that with my leadership team because it's interesting to see what we look like as a team, how our strengths are different because you can abuse strengths and you can underuse strengths. Right? Just like anything else, sometimes our strengths can become our weaknesses, so we try... It's important for me to know what theirs are and it's important for me to share with them what mine are. My top five, it's always good to remember what your top five are, and they can change over time, but mine are: Kindness, humor, curiosity, hope and love. Not in that order, but kindness and humor are my top two.

0:43:15.8 EK: I'm gonna have to try it, we'll keep it in mind for our women's program in future years for sure.

0:43:22.3 BG: Yeah, it's fun.

0:43:25.0 EK: So again, if you have questions, feel free to raise your hand or type it in the chat. I'm gonna direct to my next question, it might be our last one, I know we're running outta time, to Sheryl and Melissa, about building a network of support around you as you progress throughout your career. Sheryl, I know you are super connected with the Women's Officials Network that's based outta Oakland County, but anyone can participate. I'm not in Oakland County and I love to participate in those. Melissa, I know that having some support has been helpful in your career as well, so how did you build that network that you could lean on, and how do you recommend women who are earlier on in their careers or in a different position, so maybe not fully at the city manager level, how do you recommend going about harnessing that and putting that together? 

0:44:22.2 ST: Well, thanks, Emily, and as you mentioned, the Women's Officials Network Foundation, and their website is wonfoundation.net, and their focus is on empowering women who are interested in elected office or appointed office, so an administrator's role, and they are a phenomenal group, and each individual who's there is someone who could potentially be a mentor to someone who's interested in the field, and just wherever you are to reach out to other women, one of the things we heard throughout the conversation today was you're often the only woman in the room, so when you find that is a scenario, one, make your voice heard, but also to open the door and invite someone else in so that you're not the only one there. There's power in numbers.

0:45:17.5 EK: Thanks, Sheryl. Melissa, do you have anything to add to that? 

0:45:21.6 MM: Just seeking out a mentor, I think that was really one of the main focuses early on in my career, is I was lucky to come in contact with mentors that really... In my situation, they happened to be men because that was predominantly what was in the field, but they still have become great friends and I still bounce ideas off of them and things even years later, so don't discard that, if you find somebody that's interested in helping promote your training or giving you opportunities, really seize that and tell them what you're interested in. Let somebody know that you're interested in a different career path.

0:46:00.8 EK: Thank you so much, super helpful. Let's not forget our male allies out there, particularly in this profession, there are a lot of them, but we've got a lot of women who volunteer through our programs, like our four panelists today, who are in these positions. As we mentioned earlier, we've had over 100 women go through our Women's Municipal Leadership Program, which is a five-month development training program for women interested in the profession, who would also be more than happy to talk about the program and their profession with somebody who's interested, so please feel free to reach out any time. We also connect interested women, students, people interested in the profession through our website, you can go to 1650project.org and reach out to us through our Ambassador program. We can put you in contact with somebody who can help. Yes, and here on the screen, 1650project.org.

0:46:54.7 EK: If you wanna get in touch with us, if you have questions, if you wanna know more, please feel free to reach out to me. I'm at [email protected], if you email, Heather is also on the call, she's my colleague, she works closely with the 16/50 project as well, so we'll have her post her email address in the chat. We'll make sure you've got access to this following today's session as well, we'll send... I think, Cindy and Miriam are gonna send out an email afterwards, but I wanna give a huge thank you to our four panelists today, Sheryl, Bridgette, Dana, Melissa, thank you so much for joining us, for sharing your wisdom, and thank you to U of M for putting this on and allowing us to fellowship with your students. With that, thanks for a great session. Cindy, anything to add before we close out today? 

0:47:41.3 ST: Well, I just again wanna echo what you said about the wonderful panelists, and a good, big thank you to MML, Emily and Heather, and I also wanna just let the panelists know, we're gonna follow up with you too 'cause we wanna find additional ways for our students to engage with you. We've had projects in the past that students have helped out some of the participants on policy projects that may be... We also know unfortunately about local government is you're also always understaffed, so if there's ways that we can help you. And please do let us know if you have openings 'cause we will share that with our career services. And so thank you, so it's a great event, and I hope everybody enjoys the rest of their day. Thank you all.

0:48:28.9 DM: Thank you.

0:48:30.0 ST: Thank you.

0:48:30.0 EK: Thank you.