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Harvard University's Senior Executives in State and Local Government
Wynette Reed, Deputy City Manager, City of Goodyear

I want to begin by thanking ACMA, and the many generous sponsors who continue to support and find value in the educational experiences provided by the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executives in State and Local Government program. When I received the call from Josh Wright that I had been selected as one of the scholarship recipients, I was simultaneously excited and nervous. I had heard of others' experiences at this program and how they came back from Harvard "changed." I admit, I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but I was curious to find out.

The three-week program covered numerous subjects which included: in-depth leadership discussions on current events, team decision making, creating public value, religion and political life, negotiation techniques, state and local finance, using evidence to make data driven decisions, managing crisis communications, and several sessions on our Nation's Constitution - just to name a few. The days were long - beginning at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast followed by study group sessions from 7:45 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. with class starting at 9:00 a.m. and lasting until 5:00 p.m. The nights were spent reading hundreds of pages of material in preparation for case-study discussions the next day.

On the first day of class, we were told that we were chosen to be part of an "ecosystem." We were a diverse group comprised of elected officials, county and city administrators, union executives and executives from police departments across the country. In addition to the diversity of our roles, our diversity extended to gender, race, politics, religion and sexual orientation. This was important because as you will recall this past July 2015, there were several significant events occurring across our Country; events such as the legalization of gay marriage, the national focus on race relations, and the increased scrutiny of police departments. We were an ecosystem with a makeup that reflected and included individuals that can and will play a significant role in the issues facing our Nation. Due to the makeup of this class, Harvard provided an environment for us to have very important and controversial discussions within our ecosystem.

The education I received while attending the Harvard Kennedy School was of the quality expected from Harvard and led by our Country's top practitioners and professors. The program is intentionally structured to not only provide participants with new skills and techniques, it is also designed to break us of many long held beliefs and approaches that prohibit us from being our very best. This structure led to a professional and personal journey unlike any educational process I've ever experienced.

I can't thank everyone enough for the opportunity, and want to assure you that the lessons I learned while at Harvard will be put to good use as I continue to proudly serve in a leadership capacity in local government.

Mike Townsend, Deputy County Manager, Coconino County

I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the July 2015 Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. This experience was incredible in so many ways that I cannot come close to explaining what this means to me and my organization.

The history, the atmosphere in the classroom and the opportunity to spend time on the Harvard campus were so special to experience.

During the introductory session, the faculty chair, David King, explained the plan was to select the class members to work as an ecosystem. The class was comprised of 72 individuals who were elected state, county, and municipal officials; several high-level law enforcement officials; union executives; city and county managers; and other key state and local government officials. Participants came from all parts of the United States as well as from Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Philippines.

Each day began with study sessions at 7:30 a.m. followed by classes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our days continued as the out-of-class discussions and interactions with the other participants provided a very valuable component of the overall experience.

The curriculum continually challenged the class to rethink our experiences and perceptions. As an example we discussed the need to be confident and move forward to implement change, while at the same time being open to the possibility that we could be completely wrong. This is initially confusing, but as the discussions delve into the case studies the seemingly illogical provided context and clarity to personal experiences and challenged my own perceptions of what providing leadership really means.

My greatest revelation was to learn that our Founding Fathers intentionally designed our government to be inefficient. This was a bit unsettling at first, however the unique structure of the various levels of government in the United States has provided a form of governance that continues to serve its citizens with strong representation while protecting the voice of our constituents at the local level. This revelation brought home a clearer understanding of the importance of professional management at the local level.

I am still drawing on the experiences and lessons learned at Harvard by referring to the material that was covered and discussed in the class sessions. More important for me, than just the curriculum covered at Harvard, was how the entire experience connected missing pieces of my previous experiences, education and professional relationships. At the end of the three weeks I was excited to return home, yet sad that the experience was ending.

This brief writing of my experiences may raise questions more than provide insights into the Harvard experience. The breadth of insight and uniquely personal meaning for each participant has to be experienced, not explained. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to attend this program to do so. The experience is so valuable both professionally and personally.
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