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Local Government Leadership Program

Boston & Austin, TX: January 24 - February 4, 2004

A cross-section of local leaders representing communities in Northern Ireland and Ireland looked at how local governments in the U.S., at the town, city, and state levels, respond to the needs of their citizens and tackle such issues as creating a tolerant society, financially responsible management, economic development, service delivery, and tourism.

Local government officials from both sides of the Atlantic, despite coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, have similar problems and priorities: how to negotiate policy change at local and state level, the improvement of financial and strategic-management skills, how to manage the reorientation to a customer service model of local government, how to measure performance and impact, how to integrate technology to achieve excellence in service provision, and how to implement federal/EU regulations that are underfunded and involve a cultural adjustment on the part of their constituents. Participants developed the critical skills and were given an opportunity to network and share best practices with their respective counterparts in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In Boston, the group visited a number of local government organizations and officials that ranged from a trip to the Massachusetts State House to visit with then-Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and State Senator Steven Tolman, to a meeting with Dennis DiMarzio, Boston’s Chief Operating Officer, at City Hall.  In addition, the group also visited organizations like the Boston Redevelopment Authority and met with members of both the Irish and British Consulate in Boston.  They also attended seminars at Boston College: one that gave the participants a comprehensive overview of the US government system and two more entitled “Operations Strategy” and “Leadership Management.”

The group then traveled to Austin, Texas for four days to see how local government functions in a very different part of the country.  Within the first two days, the participants met with Austin’s mayor Will Wynn and Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor.  They also met with City Manager Toby Futtrell and enjoyed lunch and a site tour with the Texas Municipal League, a member-based city training and advocacy organization located in Elgin, among other activities.