All Articles Leadership Q&A: ICMA executive director shares successes in local government advocacy

Q&A: ICMA executive director shares successes in local government advocacy

3 min read


Bob O’Neill, ICMA executive director

Bob O’Neill, executive director of ICMA, discusses the biggest advances and shortcomings of the past year, and looks ahead to the challenges that await in 2016.

Q: What are some of this year’s accomplishments?

We’re most proud of surpassing the 10,000 member mark this year. It’s a major milestone for the organization and speaks to our unique strengths — advocating on behalf of the profession, offering networking and career enhancement opportunities, leadership and management development skill building, and accelerating the adoption of leading practices in local government management through our Knowledge Network, research and global programs. Some of our other highlights this year include:

  • On-going review of the ICMA Code of Ethics to ensure relevancy resulted in a change to Tenet 12 (Public office is a public trust) and the related guidelines.
  • Our ICMA Annual Conference in Seattle set attendance records and marked the 101st year for ICMA.
  • A new performance management platform with our technology partner SAS—ICMA Insights™ — which features a national comparative database that harnesses the power of analytics to help all communities continuously improve.
  • Local Government 101, a new certificate program which focuses on the key skills and practices that are the foundation of becoming an effective local government manager.
  • Continued recognition by the international development community of ICMA through project awards and affiliations in the Philippines, China, the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Afghanistan and more than a dozen other countries.

Q: What is the biggest challenge city and county managers are likely to face in 2016?

Financial challenges and the actions of state legislatures to restrict the flexibility of local governments are always issues. Also, because local government is on the frontlines of so many of the matters that affect quality of life for residents, managers are confronted with the need to work externally as never before in order to get things done. To be successful they need to be multi-disciplinary, able to work across all sectors, and do it all in a very transparent environment. That’s the focus behind many of our leadership development initiatives. Inclusion, diversity and the progress of women in the profession are big issues for us as well. Things aren’t changing quickly enough and two ICMA task forces have laid out some aggressive steps to ensuring that local governments and the association reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

Q: What is the biggest challenge ICMA faces in 2016?

Making sure we support our members with the resources they will need to address the challenges they will face in the coming year and beyond.