Friday, November 10, 2017

Strengthening the Relationship Between City Employers and Active Military Reserve and Guard Employees

Support for veterans and active members of the military reserve is key to walking the walk as a great employer—and public employers are no different. These employees and the skills they bring from their military service can be found in every local government profession, and understanding how to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to support those still actively serving is key to a successful relationship between employer and employee.

The League is working to strengthen that relationship in our own organization, and is proud to have received the "Above and Beyond Award" in 2017 from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers. At the League's November board meeting special guest Matthew Meyer, volunteer ombudsman for the ESGR, was present to deliver the Above and Beyond Award.

Jo Emerson receives the Above and Beyond Award from ESGR Volunteer
Ombudsman Matthew Meyer on behalf of the League at November's board meeting.
The award recognizes the League’s support for our staff to participate in guard and reserve duties. Ryan Zipf and Patrick Arneson, both of whom are litigation attorneys and in the Army Reserve, nominated the League of Minnesota Cities. Thank you to Ryan and Patrick for your nomination, but most importantly, for your service.

Other local government employers recognized in 2017 with the Above and Beyond Award were Saint Paul Emergency Management, the Paynesville Police Department, and Three Rivers Park District- The Landing.

Statement of Support
Meyer was also present to witness LMC President Jo Emerson sign the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Statement of Support.The statement formally recognizes LMC’s commitment and support of its employees who also serve as citizen soldiers. You can see which Minnesota employers have signed the statement of support and learn more on the ESGR website.

ESGR's Matthew Meyer and LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht
observe LMC President Jo Emerson sign the ESGR Statement of Support.

USERRA resources for cities
Beyond recognition, the ESGR also provides educational resources to help employers understand USERRA and resolve employment problems related to guard and reserve service before they escalate. Cities can access information about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) on the ESGR website to learn more.

Members of the executive committee gathered with some of the League's
veterans and active service members for a photo.

Here's the ESGR statement of support:

We fully recognize, honor, and comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

We will provide our managers and supervisors with the tools they need to effectively manage employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

We appreciate the values, leadership, and unique skills Service members bring to the workforce and will encourage opportunities to hire Guardsmen, Reservists, and Veterans.

We will continually recognize and support our country’s Service members and their families, in peace, in crises, and in war.

For more information about ESGR, visit https://www.esgr.mil.

Photo credit goes to League staffer Jeff Korte

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Veterans Day 2017 Message From LMC's Executive Director

A Veterans Day message from Executive Director Dave Unmacht:
My great uncle, George Unmacht, (grandfather’s brother) was a colonel in World War II. We have a family photo of him being recognized by President Harry Truman in a White House ceremony in June 1947.  He is the most decorated veteran in our family.  Colonel Unmacht has gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.; Linwood Cemetery in his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa; and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii where he is buried. I never met my great uncle as he died before I was born; I have personally visited all three gravestones. 

Stories passed on to his family note that he—like countless individuals before and after him—was a proud veteran who committed his life to serving his country in the military.
We rightfully respect and value our veterans each day, however, on Veterans Day this November we want to recognize and extend our heartfelt thanks to all men and women who have served or are serving in the military.  Beyond their military service, many of these same men and women have continued to contribute to public service through involvement in city government as elected officials or staff.
It is with honor and respect on behalf of the League of Minnesota Cities Board of Directors and staff that I want to express our gratitude to all former and current members of our military for your dedication and commitment to this country. I am very proud of my great uncle for his service and of all veterans who deserve special recognition on this day and every day.
LMC Executive Director David Unmacht

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spotted: More Bright Ideas From 2017 Regional Meetings

City officials gathered in Granite Falls and New Ulm on Oct. 11 and 12 to share bright ideas and shed some light on pressing city government issues (see what we did there?). Here are a few snapshots taken on the road!

Thanks to our Granite Falls hosts for a great Regional Meeting!

Heather Corcoran, IGR staffer, and Sue Hilgert,
mayor of Olivia, put their heads together for local gov.


Lively topics at the 2017 Regional Meetings include next generation
leaders, technology, LMC services, and a legislative review.


New Ulm City Manager Brian Gramentz offers a comment
while IGR Director Gary Carlson facilitates the mic-passing.

A big thanks to the staff and elected officials from host city
New Ulm for attending.

City officials and business partners have some bright ideas
for the future of Minnesota cities!

City officials from Stewartville, Nerstrand, and Spicer were ready to learn
and share local gov know-how.

The 2017 Regional Meetings will be gone in a flash! Check out the final dates to register for a location near you.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffers Heather Corcoran, Gary Carlson, and Danielle Cabot

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Crystal Clear View of Water Infrastructure Data

The State Auditor Infrastructure Stress Transparency
Tool is ready for fall, and for your data needs.
A tech dispatch from Mel Reeder, chief information officer at the League:

Do you find data to be clear as mud? Actually, information about city water treatment is now clear as clean water! The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) recently released their interactive map tool. This quick tool was given a long name: “State Auditor Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool Version 2.0.”

Don’t let that scare you—accessing enormous amounts of information is quicker than saying the tool’s name.

Here are just a small handful of the filters available
to hone in on just the info you need.
By using one click of your mouse (ok, maybe two clicks) you can display data onto a map of Minnesota and quickly gain insight about drinking water, water treatment, and the infrastructure within Minnesota cities, counties, water basins, or watersheds. It’s all there! The age of sewer systems is displayed in three colors for easy identification. By using color and graphics large amounts of data about Minnesota’s water becomes crystal clear.

In addition to infrastructure age, you can dig into other significant details and compare city systems side-by-side. Too much information? No problem, there is a filter for that too.

I encourage you to venture into the OSA tool. You will quickly get a clear picture of your city water and treatment infrastructure too.

City-specific data. Oh yeah.
The tool was launched about a year and a half ago and was developed with feedback collected by the State Auditor during statewide tours (one of the stops was here at the League!). The update was supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

Watch a video overview of the State Auditor's Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool Version 2.0

Check out the Minnesota State Auditor's Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool






Friday, October 6, 2017

Spotted: Bright Ideas Being Shared at the 2017 Regional Meetings

The 2017 Regional Meetings are officially underway! We've kicked off this first week in Thief River Falls, Ottertail, and Melrose. Here are a few scenes from the road:

League of Minnesota Cities staffers Gary Carlson (Intergovernmental Relations Director)
and Laura Harris (Training & Conferences Manager) arrive to a beautiful day in Thief River Falls.

Little Falls City Administrator Jon Radermacher shares
his key messages from a small-group communications activity.

LMC Communication Coordinator Danielle Cabot discusses
strategies for how best to communicate change to your community.

Thief River Falls City Administrator Rod Otterness and Bemidji Councilmember
Nancy Erickson talk about ways to identify and support future leaders in our communities.

Ottertail Mayor Myron Lueders welcomes attendees to his city.

Andrew Martin, Regional Director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar,
talks with city leaders during a break.

Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Member Relations Coordinator
Heather Corcoran shares what is on deck for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Brian Fredrickson, Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota,
leads city officials in a discussion about how to build trust in our communities.

Thank you to our conference sponsors, Business Leadership Council
members Bolton & Menk and Ehlers, Inc.
The meetings are off to a great start! Will we see you at one of the remaining locations? We hope you'll join us to share bright ideas about how to propel Minnesota cities into a brighter tomorrow!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Building Trust, Building Community

Trust is vital to successful human relationships. So what does this have to do with Minnesota cities?

Christy Kallevig, Extension Educator with the Extension Center for Community Vitality, will be one of the presenters at the 2017 Regional Meetings who will facilitate the “Strengthening Trust in Communities” session. She was generous enough to share some thoughts in advance of our meetings:

What makes trust an important topic to focus on?
We all have different reasons as to why this topic is important. I feel that it is important to understand trust because it is a complicated topic that has more layers to it than many realize. The way that we build trust in our interactions with co-workers, neighbors, and citizens helps to shape the community in which we live, work, and play. If we don't work on building trust and caring for it, we stand to lose our partners who we are working with to build community, and our communities lose their vibrancy.

Why should city officials in particular put energy into building trust?
When you build trust at multiple levels in your community, you are building a strong base on which you can grow. When community members feel that there is trust between themselves and their elected and appointed officials, they are more willing to engage in conversations and work towards a common cause. You also create a more positive work culture between elected officials, city staff, and contractors when you pay attention to how trust is built and cared for in your community. All of these factors combine to make your community a more desirable place to be.

How can the presence of trust—or lack of it—manifest itself in a community?
We are never truly able to say that trust does or does not exist in our community. Because trust can look so different to each person and be felt differently by each individual, we must constantly be working on trust. We must be looking at our interactions, how we respond to regrettable incidents, and how we manage conflict. It is only by being mindful about these things that we can work to create trusting communities.

What will people who attend your upcoming training leave knowing how to do?
After our session, people will walk away with a tool that they can use to assess trust in situations, as well as a better understanding of what trust is and how it is built.

Christy and her colleagues will be presenting at each one of our 2017 Regional Meetings (which begin next week already!), and it's sure to be an informative session. We hope to see you there!


Friday, September 22, 2017

The Sep-Oct Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Is Now Online

Kick off the fall season with a great read—the Minnesota Cities magazine! The Sep-Oct issue covers stories on local leaders and city projects as well as relevant state and nationwide topics.

Here’s the scoop:

This issue’s cover story features two “city champions,” Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider and Spring Lake Park City Administrator and Clerk-Treasurer Daniel Buchholtz. Schneider’s respected character and leadership led him to being named the 2017 C.C. Ludwig Award winner, and Buchholtz’s work restoring trust in his community is just one reason he received this year’s James F. Miller Leadership Award. Slow clap.

Have you ever thought about using a drone to capture images, videos, and information on your community? The cities of Red Wing and Champlin have done it! Both cities took advantage of drones to help craft their plans for upcoming city projects. Find out all the benefits drones have to offer in The Bird’s-Eye Advantage of Using Drones.

A revival of protests around the nation and here in Minnesota has many city officials asking, “How should I handle this?” This issue's Letter of the Law column can help clarify what local leaders need to know about preserving public safety as well as freedom of speech.

Other highlights include LMC Executive Director David Unmacht’s tips for acing interviews, a look at how city officials are advancing racial equity in their communities, and how Hutchinson is addressing a skilled workforce shortage.