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Leaders unite to boost image of public sector work

Local government officials see group as valuable tool for building partnerships

Kent Wyatt admits it's been awhile since people have seen working for the government as cool and exciting.

But Wyatt, a systems analyst for the city of Tigard, is on a mission to change that perspective with a group of local government officials who have banded together to promote the profession and get people interested in working for the public sector.

'I want to have an energy in government,' Wyatt said. 'There are a lot of strict things you have to follow, but it can be a fun profession. It doesn't have to be one way.'

Wyatt's group, Emerging Local Government Leaders, has exploded in the last two years, growing to hundreds of members from more than 60 government agencies and municipalities across Oregon. Plans are in the works to start a Central Oregon branch later this month.

New to Oregon, Wyatt started ELGL in 2010 as a way for him and his wife - who works for the city of West Linn - to meet other local government employees in the area, but soon blossomed into a group dedicated to promoting local government and helping the public sector.

'I think it's a great organization,' said Randy Ealy, an ELGL member who serves as Beaverton's chief administrative officer. 'Most of the members are young, aspiring public professionals, and this is an opportunity for them to work together and network and get exposed to some of the great mentoring opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise have access to.'

Wyatt said he hates the term networking but admitted ELGL is a place for public sector employees to get together and be more engaged in what other cities and counties are doing.

'There is a lot to be said for knowing who you're at the table with,' Wyatt said. 'It leads to more efficient government.

'In a time of tightening resources, you don't re-build the wheel every time. If I am doing a survey in Tigard, I can talk to other cities as a resource in terms of what services they have used, what they are working on.'

It's been a long time since government work was seen as an appealing career choice, Wyatt said.

'Government was not where the money was,' Wyatt said. 'It was not really cool or sexy. There really is a generational gap between people who will be retiring in the next five years and the rest of the workers.'

Ealy agreed.

'There is concern out there that more and more young professionals are choosing the private sector,' Ealy said. 'There isn't as much luster (to be in government) as it had in the '50s and '60s.

'There is a vacuum of need, and it's great to see these folks aspiring to be public servants still.'

Wyatt said ELGL helps promote local people to local government jobs and meetings often include a special guest, such as Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, who will speak to the group later this year.

'Just to hear the stories of how some of these people started, it's pretty inspirational,' Ealy said. 'It puts a skip in your step when you go back to work that you can do it, too.

'I wish it had been around when I was coming up early on in my career. What a great vehicle to get to know each other and support each other.'

ELGL's next meeting will feature Portland Timbers Chief Operating Officer Mike Golub on April 11 at Jeld-Wen Field, 1844 S.W. Morrison St., in Portland.

For more information about the group, visit www.elgl.org .




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