Back to the Nov-Dec 2019 issue

Embracing the Value of Change

By David Unmacht

The League of Minnesota Cities’ (LMC) mission and vision include three guiding principles: promoting excellence, meeting ongoing challenges, and providing premier services. With a proven track record over decades, these principles are intrinsic within our culture. Grounded in our experience is the importance of change; being responsive and flexible is essential to our relevance. As cities change, we change with you. Along those lines, I want to tell you about a few changes happening at the League that will benefit our member cities.

New department

As I’ve shared before, the League has ramped up member engagement to ensure all city voices are heard and needs are addressed. In recognition of this, we recently combined the departments of Member Services and Communications to form a newly named Engagement and Learning Department.

In making this decision, we considered that the staff in these departments collaborate frequently to design and present trainings, research, and communications to our members. When fully implemented, this merger will seamlessly integrate staff functions to more effectively work on common responsibilities for programs and services important to our city officials.

Adult learning

Over the past few years, we have witnessed that training and technology tools continue to evolve. In response, we created a new position and hired Adriana Temali-Smith as the League’s first Education Manager. Adriana is an expert in adult learning — and we are intentionally applying adult learning principles to our educational offerings.

One product of Adriana’s expertise is our new podcast, The City Speak. This fall we opened our second full season of podcasts that provide short takes on city issues — on timely topics like legislative updates, as well as perennial content like budgeting. This is only one of the innovations that members will notice as we introduce new tools and methods to enhance your learning experiences.

Collaboration services

In the course of events, cities can experience conflict. Conflict is not bad; it’s how you deal with it that determines the impact on your city. To help with this, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust now offers personalized collaboration services, which is a one-of-a-kind program among state municipal leagues.

League personnel work with you to help your city council and staff work together, understand roles, and avoid conflict. Pam Whitmore, a qualified neutral and experienced facilitator, leads this effort and offers personalized workshops and facilitated discussions. And best of all, there is no charge to members for this service.

LMC office remodel

I conclude with two changes that will become more visible in the coming months. With careful planning, an ongoing capital improvement program, and clear goals, we will be remodeling our office space in 2020.

The centerpiece and most exciting aspect of our remodel will be space specifically designed to provide state-of-the-art working and meeting areas for city officials who visit the League building. The member space will be conveniently located on the first floor of our building. It will include modern office cubes, technology ports, and meeting rooms. As a League member, you can use this space when you are attending LMC meetings and events, visiting the Capitol, or whenever city business brings you to St. Paul. We are in the design development stage of the space and anticipate construction in the first six months of 2020.

Budget and finance consulting

Members often tell us that budget and finance concerns keep them from “restfully sleeping at night.” As you know, one of the League’s core functions is responding to your questions, and we field thousands of them each year. So, we thought we could put that core function and your need together to create a new service. In recognition of what keeps you awake at night, we are ramping up our budget and finance consulting capacities to mirror the depth of service we already offer in areas like human resources, technology, and communications. To that end, we will be hiring a staff member in 2020 to assist cities with the all-important area of finance.

The strength of the League — our consistency and responsiveness — mirrors that of our members. Yet, within an ever-changing environment, it is critical that we (the League) and you (our members) maintain an engaged and active relationship. The changes outlined above demonstrate that we are listening carefully and doing our best to promote excellence, meet ongoing challenges, and provide premier services.

David Unmacht is executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1205.