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Students prepare for top-paying government jobs through executive organization membership

ICMA chapter offers opportunities for professional development, networking


Woman standing behind a lectern wearing graduation regalia and speaking into a micorphone.

Professor Shannon Portillo, director of the ASU School of Public Affairs, speaks to the fall 2022 convocation of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe. Photo by Mark J. Scarp/ASU

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October 11, 2023

Many local government agencies are encountering recruitment difficulties. Shannon Portillo says she knows why that’s true.

“An often-expressed belief regarding public service careers is that they aren’t financially satisfying; that they are ‘callings’ rather than pathways to professions that pay a respectable wage,” said Portillo, director of the ASU School of Public Affairs. “True, many traditional jobs in such areas as teaching, law enforcement and firefighting do pose barriers to overcome. But there are many more public-sector careers than these at the local level.”

Portillo said the average pay for U.S. city or county managers is well into six figures, with cities with populations greater than 200,000 offering salaries often at $250,000 or higher.

Other positions in program and department management and budget analysis provide quite reasonable paychecks, she said.

Many Arizona State University public affairs students are readying themselves for careers in local government management through membership in the ASU chapter of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

It’s a prominent organization of local government professionals whose mission is to build and support flourishing communities worldwide, said Armando Esparza, chapter president.

“Students who join ICMA receive membership benefits such as access to professional development programs, research, publications, data, technical assistance, training and an expansive network of over 11,000 members,” said Esparza, who plans to graduate in May 2024 with a Master of Public Policy and a certificate in public administration and public management.

Esparza and chapter Vice President Willard Hyuck were in Austin, Texas, in early October for the annual ICMA conference, where they attended many professional development sessions and networking events, including one for ASU students and alumni.

Chapter members also will travel to Glendale, Arizona, this month to observe the city’s Oasis Water Treatment Plant, where they will learn about water supply, treatment processes, regulatory compliance, distribution, wastewater management and conservation, said Hyuck, who plans to earn his Master of Public Administration from the school in May 2024.

Hyuck said ASU ICMA members also will participate Nov. 2 in the 2023 Next Generation Leadership Conference, offering leadership and mentoring dialogue for local government professionals.

Logo, ICMA, International City and County Managers Association

And, later that month, they will hike “A” Mountain on the Tempe campus together, followed by lunch.

“This will be both a great opportunity for chapter members to bond and a chance for prospective members to learn what ICMA is all about,” Hyuck said. “Those interested should watch our social media for a save-the-date.”

Esparza said involvement in ICMA offers students professional development opportunities through events, discussions with experienced managers, and networking with alumni and local government representatives.

“These experiences will provide valuable insights and connections to support a future career in local government management,” Esparza said.

Hyuck said he’s enjoyed the numerous opportunities ICMA provides to learn and grow as an aspiring local government professional.

“Particularly beneficial is the diversity of exposure that members receive. Chapter members get the chance to explore virtually every facet of local government management, including departments, operations and leadership,” he said.

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