Working for a municipality

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BradJ
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Working for a municipality

Post by BradJ » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:58 am

I am interviewing with a decent sized municipality in a couple of weeks, the job is upper management and pays quite well. The thought of working for a municipality has always interested me, mostly because I love the culture of small/mid sized towns, and serving others is rewarding. That being said, I’ve never worked for any type of government, only entities with extremely close ties. Could anyone share their experiences of working for a municipality?

My branch will be with the Utilities Department.

westie
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by westie » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:22 pm

Just don't come up with any new ideas and you'll be fine. :mrgreen:

mpsz
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by mpsz » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:31 pm

BradJ wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:58 am
The thought of working for a municipality has always interested me, mostly because I love the culture of small/mid sized towns, and serving others is rewarding.
It may be different for upper management, but I worked for my local library in when I was a high school student. It was a upper-middle class town, with approximately 60k residents. It was most definitely NOT rewarding. Interacting with the government always brings out the worst in people. I'm talking death threats over a 10¢ late fee on a book, even after we agreed to waive it.

I also worked for my state, and I agree with the post above. My boss became verbally abusive when I pointed out opportunities to make even simple improvements (let me make thing X easier to find on the website, because that's all that people are looking for, etc).

0/10 rating -- would not do it again. But again, it may be different in management.

RickBoglehead
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by RickBoglehead » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:33 pm

Can you say mediocrity?

Carefreeap
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Carefreeap » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:40 pm

I look on my middle-level job working for a local transit district as mostly positive. I also think I'm a much better person having that opportunity vs just working private sector.

Some lessons I learned:
Money is important but it isn't always the driver.
How things "look" is very important.
Politics is everything. You need to make your board/council look and feel good even if you personally think what they propose is stupid.
Be careful of "gifts" even if they follow the gift guidelines. You will be surprised at what people expect in return.
Your patience will be tested...a lot. You can affect change but it will be slow.
Remember that every e-mail, phone call, memo is considered public property. Be careful of jokes.
Be truthful but diplomatic. The truth will come out in the end.

Good luck with your exciting opportunity!

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Sandtrap
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:45 pm

1. Blend
2. Get along
3. Humility, learn
4. Respect those with seniority, and everyone else
5. Don't be a "Big Shot"
6. Patience . . play for the long long game . . . the big picture
7. Balance professional and personable
8. Honor the way "things are done" and continue them. Changes effect everyone good and bad.
9. Enjoy the stability, predictability, and security.
10. Blend
Congratulations.
:sharebeer

j

BradJ
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by BradJ » Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:50 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:45 pm
1. Blend
2. Get along
3. Humility, learn
4. Respect those with seniority, and everyone else
5. Don't be a "Big Shot"
6. Patience . . play for the long long game . . . the big picture
7. Balance professional and personable
8. Honor the way "things are done" and continue them. Changes effect everyone good and bad.
9. Enjoy the stability, predictability, and security.
10. Blend
Congratulations.
:sharebeer

j
Thank you for your response, very insightful. A common theme I’m coming across is “honor the way things are done.”

Lynette
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Lynette » Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:02 pm

BradJ wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:50 pm

A common theme I’m coming across is “honor the way things are done.”
I am not entirely sure at what level the responsibility lies but there are still a few pending criminal prosecutions about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. So maybe you have to go against the prevailing lethargy ... sometimes.
Last edited by Lynette on Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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LadyGeek
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by LadyGeek » Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:03 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (career guidance).
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

tim1999
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by tim1999 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:09 pm

If you have any sort of a questionable time or event in your personal past, be prepared for some disgruntled resident to discover it and try to tarnish your name with it.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Sep 01, 2018 9:33 pm

tim1999 wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:09 pm
If you have any sort of a questionable time or event in your personal past, be prepared for some disgruntled resident to discover it and try to tarnish your name with it.
+1
Discretion is the better part of valor.

DavidW
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by DavidW » Mon Sep 03, 2018 3:26 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:45 pm
1. Blend
2. Get along
3. Humility, learn
4. Respect those with seniority, and everyone else
5. Don't be a "Big Shot"
6. Patience . . play for the long long game . . . the big picture
7. Balance professional and personable
8. Honor the way "things are done" and continue them. Changes effect everyone good and bad.
9. Enjoy the stability, predictability, and security.
10. Blend
Congratulations.
:sharebeer

j
+1

I moved over from Mega corp to state govt after 14 years. One of the things my division chief said to me upon her retirement is "...you will be fine...." For years, I didn't know what she meant but now I understand....

There are people who move to govt work and can't "blend" because they want to impose their mode of work to the rest of the organization. If you can't or have difficulty adapting, then transition will be difficult.

Also, learn the culture of the shop where you are going to. Given it is muni, when a new mayor comes in, there are new initiatives and changes in executive management. Sometimes, that may change how and what your org does.

good luck

Teague
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Teague » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:35 pm

Lynette wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:02 pm
BradJ wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:50 pm

A common theme I’m coming across is “honor the way things are done.”
I am not entirely sure at what level the responsibility lies but there are still a few pending criminal prosecutions about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. So maybe you have to go against the prevailing lethargy ... sometimes.
Makes sense, a classic sign of lead poisoning is lethargy.
Semper Augustus

UpperNwGuy
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by UpperNwGuy » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:41 pm

I am retired now, but over my 45 years of working, I worked for the local, state, and Federal governments. I enjoyed all three experiences. Public service is a wonderful opportunity.

Lynette
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Lynette » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:05 am

Teague wrote:
Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:35 pm
Lynette wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:02 pm
BradJ wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:50 pm

A common theme I’m coming across is “honor the way things are done.”
I am not entirely sure at what level the responsibility lies but there are still a few pending criminal prosecutions about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. So maybe you have to go against the prevailing lethargy ... sometimes.
Makes sense, a classic sign of lead poisoning is lethargy.
I probably used the wrong word "lethargy". I was referring to the officials who went with the prevailing wisdom that everything was OK when the water was switched from the Huron River to the Flint River to save money. Tests started to show that there was a problem with the water but the officials did nothing for a long time. That part of Flint is a depressed area and no one took any action when the tests started to show that children were being affected by lead in the pipes. It took a long time for the officials to take action.

Now there are charges of collusion, cover up, inaction etc.etc. I think that there are about 15 people criminally indicted. My point is that one cannot always follow the crowd and not rock the boat.

MulesFan
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by MulesFan » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:15 am

Wow! I’m surprised at the number of negative responses.

I don’t see how the attitude toward change in a municipality would be all that different from a similar sized corporation. In either case I think it might depend on the culture of the organization and the people who work there.

Working with the public (or managing those who do) will give you an array of stories to tell. In my experience 90% of the people I encountered were reasonable and many of those individuals made my life far richer for having known them. The remaining 10% will be frustrating/amusing/unreasonable. I suspect a similar ratio exists whether it’s government or corporate.

You may have to deal with a revolving cast of elected officials who influence the direction of your department. Once again, the culture of your municipality may or may not discourage that.

The upside is you will likely have a stable job with good benefits and a career that is fulfilling because of your desire to improve the lives of others.

Best of luck, whichever direction you take.

BradJ
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by BradJ » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:41 am

Thank you to everyone who has responded. The folks here who have worked for munis, or the like, any tips on acing the interview? This job is WAY out of my league, I have the years of experience and the knowledge but lack the management experience they prefer. I have no doubt I can help the department succeed and lead the people well, I just don't know the exact way to communicate that. I am very personable and have an extremely diverse background in utilities, which will help.

sport
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by sport » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:45 am

One thing to be aware of is that there may be a public pension plan that you get instead of social security. If this happens, there are rules that may reduce the amount of social security benefits you might otherwise receive. It's called "government pension offset". OTOH, you get the pension which may be more than the SS reduction. The reduction is designed to prevent "double dipping". The formulas for the reduction depend on how long you have worked under SS, the dollar amount of the pension, etc.

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celia
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by celia » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:06 pm

Carefreeap wrote:
Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:40 pm
Some lessons I learned:
Money is important but it isn't always the driver.
How things "look" is very important.
Politics is everything. You need to make your board/council look and feel good even if you personally think what they propose is stupid.
Be careful of "gifts" even if they follow the gift guidelines. You will be surprised at what people expect in return.
Your patience will be tested...a lot. You can affect change but it will be slow.
Remember that every e-mail, phone call, memo is considered public property. Be careful of jokes.
Be truthful but diplomatic. The truth will come out in the end.
+1
Having once worked for a public agency, I'd say these things are very important. Gifts can be an ethical issue and are often not allowed and may have to be reported on public disclosure forms. Your pay and that of all employees may be posted publicly. After all, you are working for the taxpayers and they are your ultimate boss.

Next year's fiscal budget is often based on what was spent in the previous year. If you did not spend all of what was approved, the following year's budget will be lower. This is often why agencies have last minute discretionary spending--to use up their money. When there is board/council turnover or employees leave, records are often destroyed, even if the policy is to archive them. So sometimes it is difficult to figure out what was previously done or why.

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dual
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by dual » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:37 pm

Many government agencies have large, poorly funded liabilities for retiree pensions and medical insurance. In order to mask the amount of under-funding the government pension funds are assuming unrealistic rates of return on their assets. Even with these unrealistic assumptions, as the expenses grow larger the governments are being forced to pay more into the pension funds and these payments are starting to crowd out spending for current operations.

This is an unstable situation and depending on your age you may have to face the consequences when the SHTF.

Before accepting a job you should investigate the municipality funding. Many of the local governments pay into statewide pension funds and depend on their actuarial assumptions so check these assumptions. Many funds have been benefiting from the stock bull market of the last 10 years but as a BH we know that these returns are unlikely to continue for the long term.

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grabiner
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by grabiner » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:36 pm

sport wrote:
Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:45 am
One thing to be aware of is that there may be a public pension plan that you get instead of social security. If this happens, there are rules that may reduce the amount of social security benefits you might otherwise receive. It's called "government pension offset".
The term you probably want is Windfall Elimination Provision. Your SS benefit is based on your average SS-covered wages, adjusted for inflation, but the largest part of the benefit is from the first few dollars. If you worked for 15 years, your benefit is more than half what it would be if you worked at the same wage for 30 years. But if you worked for 30 years with only 15 under SS, your SS benefit is reduced.

The Government Pension Offset affects you if you receive a benefit from your spouse's Social Security and you have a pension from non-SS income; your spousal benefit can be reduced by 2/3 of your pension.
OTOH, you get the pension which may be more than the SS reduction. The reduction is designed to prevent "double dipping". The formulas for the reduction depend on how long you have worked under SS, the dollar amount of the pension, etc.
Wiki David Grabiner

BradJ
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by BradJ » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:11 am

Re-post:

The folks here who have worked for munis, or the like, any tips on acing the interview? This job is WAY out of my league, I have the years of experience and the knowledge but lack the management experience they prefer. I have no doubt I can help the department succeed and lead the people well, I just don't know the exact way to communicate that. I am very personable and have an extremely diverse background in utilities, which will help.

maroon
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by maroon » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:32 am

A while back I interviewed at a muni and was offered the job, but ultimately turned it down. Interview questions were standard, focusing on my work history/experience. I also completed a timed exercise to prove my skillset. This was for a highly specialized, technical position. (If I was bluffing on my skills, I would have bombed the exercise. Fortunately I knew what I was doing.)

Surprisingly, the benefit package wasn't as great as I'd anticipated. Also, I'd be giving up an office to work in a cubicle and I just couldn't do it.

silverlitegs
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by silverlitegs » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:10 pm

BradJ wrote:
Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:11 am
Re-post:

The folks here who have worked for munis, or the like, any tips on acing the interview? This job is WAY out of my league, I have the years of experience and the knowledge but lack the management experience they prefer. I have no doubt I can help the department succeed and lead the people well, I just don't know the exact way to communicate that. I am very personable and have an extremely diverse background in utilities, which will help.
I would just go into the interview and be honest. Municipalities from my experience sometimes dont know what they need or have the right people to find the staff they need.

Atilla
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by Atilla » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:25 pm

Father In Law retired at 53 years old, city assessor.

30 years later he still collects a check from the city, so it's worked out really really well for him.
The Village Idiot - here for your entertainment.

rjbraun
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by rjbraun » Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:24 pm

BradJ wrote:
Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:11 am
Re-post:

The folks here who have worked for munis, or the like, any tips on acing the interview? This job is WAY out of my league, I have the years of experience and the knowledge but lack the management experience they prefer. I have no doubt I can help the department succeed and lead the people well, I just don't know the exact way to communicate that. I am very personable and have an extremely diverse background in utilities, which will help.
Not sure there's a silver bullet for "acing" an interview. I feel as if I've done a decent amount of interviews over my decades-long career. People are different, so I guess my advice would be to try to size up your audience and respond accordingly.

I currently work for a state agency. I am based in its city office, presumably larger than the decent-sized location you mention (I'm in NYC). I've been with this agency over five years now and previously spent most of my career in private industry, one that was filled with lots of "masters of the universe"! :P

With the proviso that your background and the interview process you experience may be much different than mine, I guess my advice would be to come across as earnest and convey clearly why you are interested to transition to the public sector. The more knowledgeable and familiar you are, in detail, with the issues the municipality / agency is facing, the better, of course. As with any interview, exude enthusiasm and high energy (within reason).

Depending on how much interviewing you have done, including recently, and your comfort level with the process, maybe consider hiring a "coach" to help you prepare? They could help you do mock interviews and provide feedback.

Good luck!

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sergeant
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Re: Working for a municipality

Post by sergeant » Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:53 pm

It always helps to talk to people at the organization prior to the interview. Mention who you spoke with and what you learned during the interview. Of course, don't snitch anyone off or mention anything negative during the interview. I loved working for a municipality.
Lincoln 3 EOW!

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