By Chevon T. Baccus APR
Executive Editor 

Deputy City Manager Completes Intensive Government Leadership Program


Last updated 10/30/2019 at 11:10am

Deputy City Manager James Slaton at recent International City Managers Association conference

On the heels of his promotion to Lake Wales deputy city manager, James Slaton has completed a prestigious and intensive two-year leadership program conducted by the International City Managers Association.

Slaton was in a class of 15 municipal government leaders who graduated from the ICMA program Oct. 23 at the organization's annual conference in Nashville. He became one of only 180 city officials to complete the program since its inception 12 years ago.

"This was truly a transformative experience for me, both professionally and personally. I am not the same person I was when I started the program," said Slaton, who started his Lake Wales career 14 years ago as a network administrator and then served as information technology director, support services director, and public and support services director before being named assistant city manager. “I know that because of this investment in me, the City of Lake Wales now has a more strategic leader with the emotional intelligence to truly deliver positive impacts on our community."

Leadership ICMA is a competitive, intensive two-year ICMA University program designed to cultivate key competencies needed for successful leadership at all levels of local government management. The program is comprised of 6 modules and a real-world capstone project.

City Manager Ken Fields said Slaton's participation in the program will benefit Lake Wales and its citizens for years to come.

"It was an honor for James Slaton to be selected for the Leadership ICMA program from dozens of applicants across the country and it is indicative of his potential as Lake Wales was the smallest city in the program," said Fields, who recently promoted Slaton from assistant city manager to deputy city manager. "The continuing education courses, exposure to best practices and experienced senior city managers, and opportunity to network with other managers across the country will allow him to assure that the City continues to move toward being a high performance government operating in the most efficient and effective manner."

Slaton said he already has started implementing what he learned through the capstone project, presented in Nashville.

The capstone project requires participants to demonstrate their competence in the concepts presented throughout the Leadership ICMA program. Working in teams, participants work on a local government consulting project solicited through a formal RFP process with a local government client. Through a series of facilitated exercises, participants are individually and collectively evaluated to determine whether they have met the criteria for graduation.

Slaton's class worked with the city of Twin Falls, Idaho to help them better manage their capacity to deliver high quality services through the development of an organization-wide process improvement program. He said the overarching goal is to reduce waste while increasing efficiency.

"This will be a perpetual and continuous effort of ensuring we are always being good stewards of community tax dollars and resources," Slaton said. "The program brought into clear focus for me the work of leadership and the strategic tasks required to align an organization from top to bottom with community values."

As part of the LICMA program, Slaton also attended the University of Virginia's Senior Executive Institute. The Senior Executive Institute offers an integrated approach to professional development for local government leaders and managers. The aim is to help train leaders that will confidently direct their organizations. The program consists of an intense two-week course with involved community leaders and innovative government organizers focused on creating effective, high performance local governments around the world.

Slaton said another benefit to participating in the ICMA program was developing relationships with quality local government leaders throughout the country who can serve as resources to Lake Wales.

In addition to the capstone project, the Class of 2019 had to complete these six modules:

Below are the individuals program modules.

• Module 1: Leadership Philosophy and the Essence of Public Service. Participants engage in a variety of team-building activities designed to develop a solid foundation for positive, honest, and collaborative engagement over the course of the Leadership ICMA program. This is complemented by an intensive overview of democratic values, leadership philosophies, and the value of professional management in a rapidly changing world.

• Module 2: Understanding the Code of Ethics and its Practical Application. The Integrity/Ethics component of this module has its basis in the ICMA Code of Ethics and its practical applications in modern local government management. There is heavy focus on case studies and role-playing exercises.

• Module 3: Giving Voice to Leadership: Understanding the Role of Policy Administration and Advocacy. Key to understanding and appreciating the role of the elected official is the ability to understand the relationship between policy and administration. Through readings, case studies, and examples from local governments represented in the class, participants learn to better understand this unique relationship.

o Skills honed in this module include facilitating the flow of ideas, information, and understanding between and among individuals; advocating effectively in the common interest; communicating support for policies, programs, or ideals that serve the best interest of the community; and balancing the needs and demands of competing advocacy groups through negotiation. This module is presented in partnership with the Senior Executive Institute at the Weldon Cooper Center of the University of Virginia.

• Module 4: Organizational Effectiveness and Team Building. This module, completed in the second year, focuses on the practical concerns and skills of a high performance organization-the tools needed to help the local government become known for leadership at all levels, vision that is connected to values, high standards of quality, delivery of customer "value," and strong financial performance.

o The module covers effective principles of trust, communication, role clarification, and performance accountability that can create the teams necessary for effectiveness in local government, particularly for participants who are new team leaders, whose team composition has changed, or whose teams are experiencing stress from external events

James Slaton

• Module 5: Strategic Planning and Project Management. Strategic planning capabilities are critical to playing an effective leadership role. This module, also completed in the second year, focuses on skills necessary to position the organization and the community for events and circumstances that are anticipated in the future, including the ability to analyze and facilitate good policy choices.

• Module 6: ICMA 101. This module provides participants with an understanding of ICMA's mission, history, goals, organization, services, products, and opportunities for member involvement. Leadership ICMA participants are invited to actively engage in a leadership role within the association by serving on task forces, convening member groups for discussion of key issues, leading educational or informational sessions at the ICMA conference or regional meetings, or participating in an international project or exchange.


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