Jump to main content.

Public Involvement Network News

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

This page provides links to many non-EPA web sites that provide information on public involvement. Exit EPA Disclaimer

The next  item is taken, with permission for use, from articles that appeared in ICMA’s e-newsletter, Local Government Matters.  [“Teach Someone to Fill Your Shoes,” and “Developing Existing Talent to Ensure a Future Leadership Pipeline”]

Developing Existing Talent to Ensure a Future Leadership Pipeline

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2006, there were 151 million jobs in the U.S. economy but only 141 million people in the workforce to fill them.[1] The greatest turnover in aging workers, says Frank Benest, city manager, Palo Alto, California, will be in executive, administrative, and managerial occupations.[2]  The U.S. General Accounting Office reports that 53 percent of middle managers in the federal workforce qualified for retirement in 2004.[3]

As the baby boomers leave, a much smaller group of young professionals is in line and prepared to fill their shoes. Compounding this vacancy is a staggering number of nonprofits and public-service-oriented private companies that did not exist 20 and 30 years ago that are competing for the new workforce talent. Technology’s edge increases the ease of being an independent worker or entrepreneur today, further dwindling the attractiveness of government public service.

Many seasoned local [federal and state] government managers started their careers as interns and entry-level analysts. Local governments [federal and state] across the country cut back these positions due to funding constraints and increasing community needs. These cutbacks combined with increasing opportunities to make a difference outside government have withered the supply of ready-to-go managers. 

Because five out of eight public sector employees work in local government, city and county governments are particularly at risk.[4] In 1971, for example, nearly 71 percent of professional city, town, and county managers were age 40 or younger. By 2006, that percentage had fallen to only 13 percent![5]  

In addition to issues related to the aging and impending retirement of many public sector managers, local governments face a number of demographic challenges. The ethnic, racial, and gender composition among local government chief administrative officers (CAOs) has changed slowly over the last three decades while our communities have become more diverse. In 2006, 20% of city, town, and county CAOs were women, 4% were African American, roughly 3% were Hispanic, and another 10% were either Asian or Native American.[6]

To address the changes that must take place within the local government workforce, organizations such as ICMA have launched programs designed to help communities attract and develop a wide and diverse group of people into the local government management profession by

  1. Promoting awareness of the local government management profession and encouraging individuals to consider careers in the field.
  2. Helping new and early careerists land their first jobs in local government.
  3. Engaging local government management professionals in professional membership organizations such as ICMA and state managers’ associations early in their careers.
  4. Building the leadership pipeline by engaging and developing promising individuals so that they are prepared to step into leadership roles, both in their local governments and their professional associations.

Local government civics education, internship, and fellowship programs help communities attract students, recent graduates, and career changers to positions as public service managers. Communities also must create and implement succession plans that develop and retain those individuals currently in their organizations.

Finally, local [state and federal] governments can advocate the important role that senior executives play in developing talented individuals already in the leadership pipeline. ICMA engages its members whose experience, adherence to high standards of integrity, and assessed commitment to lifelong learning and professional development have earned them distinction as Credentialed Managers by recruiting them as Legacy Leaders. These individuals enrich the profession by coaching and mentoring young professionals and assistant/deputy managers.

The time for public sector organizations to develop new leadership talent is now! Visit ICMA’s Next Generation Web site for information on the organization’s activities and programs for students and early careerists. Or contact Rob Carty, Next Generation program manager at rcarty@icma.org; 202/962-3560.

Look around you – you’ll find some managers who are aware of these challenges and working diligently to help fill this gap. They’ve asked themselves: “Have I identified great people I can help build-up and move on? Am I making myself available as a coach and mentor? Do I have a snapshot of my organization’s upcoming retirements? Am I readying my organization for workforce changes?”  

[1] Selbert, Roger, “The New Workforce,” Growth Strategies No. 954 (June 2003): 4.
[2] Benest, Frank, ed., “A Call to Action,” in Preparing the Next Generation, ICMA (International City/County Management Association), 200TK.
[3] Federal Employee Retirements: Expected Increase over the Next 5 Years Illustrates Need for Workforce Planning, report no. GAO-01-509 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, April 2001), 17–18.
[4] Ehrenhalt, Samuel M., Government Employment Report 6 (June 1999): 19–22, quoted in Marnie E. Green, “Beware and Prepare: The Government Workforce of the Future,” www.managementeducationgroup.com/frames/articles/beware.html.
[5] ICMA’s 2006 State of the Profession Survey results.
[6] 1989 ICMA membership data.


Local Navigation

Jump to main content.