By David Unmacht
History, public service, politics, policy, and political science. Throughout my career and in my first six months at the League of Minnesota Cities, I’ve learned that being an executive director involves all of these disciplines. And as fate would have it, I am passionate about these subjects.
But, alas, I’ve learned that this job also involves math. Full disclosure time: the last significant math course I took was in high school, when calculators first arrived on the scene and performed only the functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Being mathematically challenged has not been a factor so far in my career, but new responsibilities require more risk taking and a departure from my comfort zone. In that spirit, please indulge me in the introduction of a new mathematical formula that has profound implications for the League and its members. With apologies to Einstein, Newton, Pythagoras, Euclid, and Mrs. Quere (my high school algebra teacher), I so name this new formula 833 nthPower.
Let me explain, using basic mathematical principles. With more than 900 members, including 833 city governments (92.5 percent), the base density and mass of the League is solid. As was advised prior to my appointment and proven by my own six-month experience, an algebraic expression isn’t needed to prove the strength of the League. However, like all principles, it needs to be tested.
The League, like all public-sector organizations, is overseen by people who are interested, involved, and committed to our mission. Throughout our 100+ years, we have been blessed to flourish with a deep bench and a historical record of city officials stepping in to provide leadership. Probability theory would suggest this historical phenomenon will continue well into our future. Nevertheless, any simple analysis of our cities suggests a latent power in our membership that, left untapped, is an opportunity lost.
During the recent series of LMC Regional Meetings in our state, I shared the League’s goal to retain the participation of our most active city officials while simultaneously encouraging more city officials to get involved in League activities. To simplify the concept, I encouraged attendees to do the math—to consider the increased power of our work if only one more city official in each of the 833 member cities would interact with the League in any manner.
Imagine, for example, if each additional city official spent one hour (in, say, a phone conversation), two hours (researching our website), three hours (attending a Regional Meeting), or even up to 10 hours (attending our Annual Conference). Ten hours annualized equates to 8,330 hours—or 347 person-days—of involvement. Potential benefits of this expansion are limitless, including:
Professional development. Learn more about what the League offers to improve your personal knowledge and service to your city and community. And participate in League-sponsored events that promote networking and sharing best practices with your counterparts in local government.
Public service enhancement. Strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of your own city government.
Mentoring opportunities. Volunteer to mentor or tutor other city officials who are in need or have questions.
Several Regional Meeting attendees suggested that engaging only one additional elected or appointed official per city wasn’t enough—we should strive for two more or even five more per city! I love that challenge, and the impact is exponentially enhanced if we can pull it off.
In the coming months, based on what I’ve heard from many conversations with members, I plan to involve League staff and Board members to sharpen that goal, and to brainstorm strategies and tactics to reach it.
I can promise one mathematical certainty that results from greater involvement in our work. That is the sense of satisfaction that you will have in strengthening what already is our legacy. By developing a closer connection with the League and all of its member cities, you will be part of one of the best local government industries in the country.
And we don’t need a calculus or geometric formula to make that case.
David Unmacht is executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 281-1205.
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