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A look ahead to the 2019 ICMA Annual Conference

A preview of what to expect from the International City/County Management Association 2019 conference

4 min read


A look ahead to the 2019 ICMA Annual Conference


The 105th ICMA 2019 Annual Conference, Oct. 20 to 23 in Nashville, Tenn., will bring together local government professionals from all over the world. This year’s conference focuses on making cities and counties better places to live, work and play. In advance of the conference, SmartBrief heard from Novi, Mich., assistant city manager Victor Cardenas, who is the chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, to learn more about what to expect in Nashville.

What sessions on the agenda this year are you looking forward to the most?  

That’s a difficult question to answer as the agenda is JAM packed with great content. There are some sessions on Design Thinking that look good, along with starting Podcasting for your community. The Planning Committee, along with ICMA staff, did a great job gathering topics that will resonate with managers/members from all across the country. From the pre-conference sessions to the breakout sessions and the keynotes, I believe we have something for everyone. 

Victor Cardenas,
Asst. City Manager,
Novi, Mich.

Are there any sessions that are generating a lot of general interest already?  

I haven’t heard any specific sessions that are generating a lot of interest, but the conference, on the whole, is shaping up to be the most attended ever! I believe the content-rich agenda, along with a fantastic location, is drumming up a lot of interest from not only our North America members but from our International Colleagues as well. I’m really looking forward to not only our four keynotes but our featured speakers. Kristen Cox (Tuesday, Oct 22) has an amazing message and story that our members will find impactful. 

Are there any significant changes to this year’s ICMA Annual Conference?  

Our ICMA staff team has worked hard to provide new and innovative features to improve on the conference experience. Attendees have always enjoyed the conference, but with these new improvements I believe the experience will not only be tremendously enriching but extremely enjoyable as well. I implore our members to keep their eyes out for different activities in the common areas that will add to their conference experience. 

What is typically your favorite aspect of the conference?  

I have always enjoyed reconnecting with my colleagues near and far that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know through the years. Be it from former ICMA committee service, Executive Education fellow Alums, or colleagues I got to know when we served in the same state. Catching up with these friends and hearing about the innovative programs and solutions in their respective organizations recharges my professional batteries for the year. 

Is there a takeaway from a previous conference that changed how you handled a situation in your city?  

I’ve been fortunate to have attended several ICMA conferences dating back to my first 2005 in Minneapolis. I have taken something from each and every conference; from different initiatives occurring in the host community to the specific message from a respective keynote speaker. We wanted to take the best practices from each of those conferences and apply them to Nashville 2019. There is no “official theme” for this year’s conference, but the “unofficial” theme for Nashville is “Friends in Local Places.” The new improvements and enhancements will bring our members/friends closer together during their time at the conference.     

What advice do you have for first-time attendees?  

Get lots of rest before coming to “Smashville” because it’s “GO time” once you arrive! Attend as much as possible. Don’t just commit to one reception on Monday night; attend several. Don’t skip the opening reception Sunday evening, as there are many great vendors that may assist you in your respective job. If you’ve never been to Nashville before, buckle up. It’s an amazing town. You’ll love it!


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Paula Kiger edits the ICMA SmartBrief and is looking forward to attending the ICMA 2019 Conference in Nashville. She welcomes your ideas by email about what sessions she should attend at the conference. She also edits SmartBrief’s other nonprofit sector newsletters and co-manages @SBLeaders on Twitter. You can find her at her blog Big Green Pen, on Instagram, at LinkedIn and on Twitter.