Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from May-Jun 2016 issue

St. Paul to City Hall: A Potential Game Changer

UnmachtSPCHBy David Unmacht

When you think of the term “game changer,” what comes to mind? Big, bold, dramatic, distinctive— all of the above? It can be risky to use because, by definition, it implies high expectations. So, recognizing that risk, and I assume responsibility for it, here it is—I want to tell you about a potential game changer.

First, I need to set the stage: the League of Minnesota Cities’ (LMC) mission is to promote excellence in local government through effective advocacy, expert analysis, and trusted guidance for all Minnesota cities. Our vision is to provide premier services to our members as a trusted, authoritative, and unified voice for our cities. These phrases establish our benchmark. We take them seriously.

Second, some perspective is in order. The services and programs provided by a state’s municipal league are a function of the mission, vision, and business model it operates under. For example, in Minnesota, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) has been a strong partner with us for more than three decades. That is not always the case with other state leagues.

Think about this with your city government structure. Not all cities are the same. For example, our cities’ Game plan illustrationbusiness models include: Charter Cities, Plan A, Plan B, First Class, Second Class, City Administrator, City Manager, City Clerk-Treasurer, Strong Mayor, Weak Mayor, etc. Each of our cities provides basic services, but the depth and details of what each city does is different. Same is true for the state leagues throughout the country.

The LMC business model—driven by our mission and vision—provides our staff with the capacity to simultaneously provide internal support and member (city) services as an integral part of what we do. Human resources is a perfect example. On a daily basis, LMC HR Director Laura Kushner and her team do HR work for the League and LMCIT. And they also answer questions and give guidance to cities on HR questions, issues, and concerns. As a member, if you have an HR question, you often call Laura, Doni Mikacevich, Joyce Hottinger, or Mindy Corby. It’s second nature for you and for us. We would have it no other way.

Now, the game changer. After extensive study and discussion, the League Board has approved the hiring of a chief information officer, or CIO, who will be responsible for developing and shaping our strategic direction in information technology. We are currently interviewing candidates.

We believe that, when it comes to the field of technology, we can do a better job of providing trusted guidance and authoritative services. Technology, as we all know, is essential to the foundation and fundamental work cities do. We have a strong internal technology team, but our direct work with cities is currently limited. We want to build an IT business model that emulates the HR services we provide, with excellent in-house technical capacity and effective, premier, authoritative member-based services.

In the course of our study, we talked with city officials about what role the League can have if we strengthen our technology expertise. We received strong affirmation that we would add value to our members if we focus member services in areas such as responding to technology questions; drafting policies; and offering advice on best practices in email, records retention, data practices, and security. We also know that information technology has a significant role in risk management and loss control— hence, the connection to LMCIT. I also envision that the CIO can be a catalyst for ideas and a convener of people searching for and identifying common solutions around technology for all Minnesota cities.

From our IT-related conversations with members, whether they are in city hall, a restaurant, coffee shop, or local American Legion hall, we know everyone agrees that the effective use of information technology is essential to our future. We also know that there are many questions and uncertainties surrounding IT. In your search for answers, our goal—driven by our mission, vision, and business model—is to be a premier and authoritative resource for you.

We are just getting started. Hold me to the game changer, but give us some time. We will dream big, with realistic goals. We would have it no other way.

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

Read the May-June 2016 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine.

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