Local governance reimagined post COVID-19
Never have local government leaders been challenged to perform as much as they have since the COVID-19 pandemic affected their economy and community. Coronavirus has, in many communities, inspired new industries, created new careers, and revealed the challenges of many local government leaders across the nation.
These local governments face a complex and challenging future and will be responsible for developing a new tech-sensitive and transparent approach to governance (and local leadership) that caters to the priorities of all community groups. This is the newly realized local leader in government and these skills will be necessary to succeed in this post pandemic “new world.” This shift must happen in all aspects of local government services, including community development, regulatory compliance, public works and public safety. By developing new strategic goals, changing public service delivery and “leaping forward” in operational effectiveness a new age in governing will emerge.
“Restorative management” within local government is the key and communities will have to hold their leadership responsible to choose effective governance over the potential desire of negative self-interest. Realistically, positive self-interest can be an incentive for local government administrators with career concerns in mind. This positive self-interest can be reflected in the way by which management applies their efforts; this exemplifies their self-interest in their role. Effective local governance is efficiency in the practices and procedures that maximize community safety and economic performance, and the local administrator’s self-interest should fuel this process. Effective and responsible governance provides a structure that works for the benefit of everyone concerned by ensuring that the organization adheres to community needs, ethical standards and newly developed best practices.
The aftermath of COVID-19 will require leaders and managers of local government organizations to develop progressive emergency management and public policies. Today’s headlines exemplify this fact and prove that the elements of true leadership and civil awareness are no longer a novelty. Some leaders got it right when it mattered; a transparent government organization is one that is open, responsive and accessible to all resident requests and needs. The coronavirus pandemic has essentially “outed” municipal and county departments and leaders with mundane ideas of local governance and antiquated service delivery. These communities have therefore suffered in this “shelter-in-place” economy, and things that should have been done, are now being done while progressive cities and counties that offer modern services have thrived.
Some local government leaders have failed their citizenry. As we move forward, like with anything new, there is a cost associated with progressive governance and transparency; however, the benefit clearly outweighs that cost. To some, transparency means revealing weaknesses to potential rivals; however, increased transparency can increase confidence by the citizenry and rally support if properly communicated. A transparent leader (and organization) maintain lines of communication with all stakeholders and is forthcoming with government-related practices, procedures and results. A transparent organization acts ethically and talks openly to everyone lending itself to scrutiny and measure by the public.
A local government’s ability to ensure that transparency exists, controls are in place, and that self- interest by management is channeled into work performance, makes for an effective form of governance.
Local managers are challenged to use strategic thinking to guide decision making and let the lessons of today teach them how to use tactical deployment of resources to effectuate change in a community. Achieving the community mission should be the goal and ushering in new local government policies will result in productivity and effectiveness.