LAWRENCE – It protects citizens, provides clean water, picks up the trash and fixes the streets, yet local government is often taken for granted. Robert O’Neill Jr., executive director of the International City/County Management Association, thinks local government is too important to ignore.
O’Neill is a recognized authority on the challenges and issues that confront local governments. He will share some of his insights at a presentation at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus, 12600 Quivira Road, Overland Park. His topic is “Unity, Disparity, Division: The Role of Local Government Managers.” The presentation at the BEST Conference Center is free and open to the public.
The KU School of Public Affairs and Administration is hosting a five-day visit by O’Neill this week. During his time at KU, he will engage with faculty, students and front-line government staff to reflect on the state of the public management profession and the emerging issues that face city and county government leaders.
“KU is one of only two universities Bob is visiting during his sabbatical this fall,” said Marilu Goodyear, director of the school. “We’re honored to have him at KU,and especially glad a wider public audience has a chance to hear him speak on Wednesday.”
Goodyear said O’Neill is focusing on how to nurture innovation in the field of local government, especially during periods of tight budgets. He’s also concerned with research and the rigorous analysis and application of best practices. Equally important, how do academic programs such as KU’s meet the professional development needs of local government managers?
“The ICMA is extremely important in all these areas,” said Goodyear, “and works to set worldwide standards that affect our school and our graduates.”
O’Neill has led ICMA since 2002, following two years as president of the National Academy of Public Administration and three years as Fairfax (Va.) County executive, where he oversaw Virginia’s largest general-purpose local government and is credited with developing a series of successful community and commercial revitalization strategies. He earlier served as city manager of Hampton, Va., from 1984 to 1997, and served in the early 1980s as director of management consulting services for the Virginia offices of Coopers & Lybrand. His academic background includes a bachelor’s degree in political science from Old Dominion University and a master’s in public administration degree from Syracuse University.
The KU School of Public Affairs and Administration is among the oldest and most respected in the country, with a local government leadership program that started in 1948. KU’s master’s degree program in city management and urban policy is ranked first in the nation by U.S. News, and its program is ranked fifth overall for public management administration. The school offers coursework at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, as well as in Topeka at the KU Public Management Center.
O’Neill’s presentation at Edwards Campus is the latest in the Bold Aspirations Visiting Lecture Series, a program designed to expand the public conversation on themes developed during KU’s recent strategic planning initiative. His talk relates to the theme of “Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities.”
Learn more here about the KU School of Public Affairs and Administration.