Weekly comments from Dale Martin – ICMA and personal resiliency

Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
June 26, 2020

City Manager Dale Martin
As a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), I am annually required to complete a variety of professional development tasks to maintain my credentials as a manager. The value of my ICMA membership and my credentials are illustrated with the recent efforts of the City’s Charter Review Committee. The Charter Review Committee has proposed that membership in a professional organization such as ICMA should be a City Charter requirement for the City Manager.

Membership in the ICMA does not automatically confer “credentialed” status. To earn that designation requires additional effort, training, and development, documented in annual reports to the ICMA. Every five years, an extensive peer review is required as part of credentialing maintenance. According to ICMA records, Florida has 122 credentialed managers (interestingly, it is only North Carolina that has more- 150 credentialed managers). An additional special note is that several retired city managers reside in Fernandina Beach.

ICMA has developed a series of professional development attributes that are the foundation of the credentialing annual reports. Credentialed managers self-select the attributes of developmental interest, prepare a development plan, and report activities. A total of forty hours of annual professional development is required to maintain the designation as an ICMA Credentialed Manager (ICMA-CM).

One of the (fifteen) professional development attributes is Personal Resiliency and Development. As is the case with many professions, personal resiliency is the effort to achieve and maintain a balance between professional and personal life. This balance has become more challenging for a variety of reasons.

Technology has had a significant impact. While everyone has always had telephones, the development of mobile telecommunications has turned nearly everyone, every place, and every time into a mobile office. It’s not just a rotary or touch-tone landline in the kitchen anymore: it’s a computer with incredible processing power that can function as a phone, camera, word processor, internet interface, tracker, and email server (and probably even more functions in development). It is now nearly impossible to escape work.

The philosophy that I have espoused to City Department Directors is that the weekend is their time. I do not engage staff with routine matters on the weekend. I expect the Directors to similar respect that time for their subordinate staff. I also advise senior staff that if they have a vacation longer than a four-day weekend, I sever their access to the City email server: it is critical that their extended time away from actually be conducted as time away from work. During those “away” times, other City staff are strongly advised to not circumvent that separation of work and home with phone calls or other available email communications.

Another factor impacting personal resiliency efforts is crisis management. Whether it is a hurricane or a pandemic, it is common to get drawn into a spiral of the increasing demands of responding to the crisis. During preparation for and response to a crisis, staff (not solely for the City but for other employers, as well) has their professional responsibilities but they also have personal responsibilities: families, friends, and property to consider. Over the course of my career, I have faced numerous community crises that, due to my position, resulted in me neglecting the personal responsibilities. It is for that reason that I believe ICMA has put a formal emphasis on personal resiliency.

Other than my time with my family, my most valued personal resiliency effort is my Friday night game night with several friends. Many of you are aware of my boardgame affliction: my collection of games exceeds six hundred and occupies an entire room (although I do concede a small corner- but ONLY that corner- to Lisa). Throughout April and May, due to the pandemic, my game night participation was limited to Curtis. The group is starting to come back and now draws from three to five friends. We enjoy the competition, but the emphasis is on conversation and camaraderie.

In addition to Friday night gaming, a different gaming issue has taken time. A friend’s brother, Mike, passed away several months ago. Mike was a game collector and dealer, but no one else in his family was familiar with games, so I was asked to review and disburse Mike’s collection. I said, “Sure,” and cleared some space on my shelves for Mike’s games. Well, that shelf space did not accommodate the twenty-foot U-Haul truck and 225 boxes packed with games (early estimate is about 1,500), pieces, and magazines (several hundred). Examining, inventorying, and marketing Mike’s collection is a relaxing (to me) exercise. I can, for a short time, set aside the challenges of city budgets, FEMA, and Covid. I want to do my best to mark Mike’s legacy.

That is part of personal resiliency- striking a balance that is often imbalanced between work and home. I hope that everyone takes the time for time away from work- set down the phone (turn it off), go away, find an engrossing hobby. It will provide immeasurable personal and professional benefits.

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