Brandon Mendozza, a student at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affiars, was one of 10 individuals who completed an internship as part of LGA's Municipal Intern Program. Brandon gave a speech at this year's Recognition Luncheon, reflecting on the value of his experience in working with the City of Aliquippa on a code enforcement project.
Hi, my name is Brandon Mendoza. I am a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh (GSPIA). My internship placement was in The City of Aliquippa and I worked with the Code Enforcement Department. On my first day, I had to deal with residents that allowed their dog to lay feces all over their backyard. When I went to speak to them they had no idea what the problem was. I explained to them that it was against city ordinances to allow feces to become unsanitary. After that, I knew I would be getting a lot of complaints this summer, so I thought of ways I could better file and communicate to the residents. With the assistance of the code enforcer and the city, I created a website and database strictly focused on code enforcement.
I know many will ask, “Why is code enforcement so important?” For municipalities, their brand is forged by the reputation of their neighborhoods. And locales like Aliquippa are constantly in competition with surrounding suburbs and municipalities. So any resident dissatisfaction can push residents to surrounding locales. Local governments must maintain a sense of pride in their municipality and must always seek to maximize public value.
Local government is the purist form of democracy in America. They are direct stewards of their citizen’s resources and, as such, are held to the highest standard. In Aliquippa, if there is a street light out, a resident can literally look in the phone book and call the mayor. The mayor would then call the department responsible for keeping up with the lights. Actually he would call me and I would get in contact with the department! But this is why local government is so important: active citizens can actually make a difference.
Municipal governments must anticipate and plan for the unknown and good public management can ensure that municipalities thrive and thwart external problems. Today, local governments must strategically plan and hire managers with the vision to see beyond the present. Managers must be equipped with a broad array of knowledge that extends to all sectors. Local governments must compete with federal and state governments and non-profit sectors for these specially trained individuals. Because of this competition, local governments often have to hire people from different sectors that meet some of the required skills. LGA’s municipal intern program provides local governments with students whom have many of the skills in demand but need experience to enhance them. This program is invaluable to municipalities throughout western PA.
Local public management doesn’t sound sexy and isn’t marketed to college kids and graduate students; but simply the job is essential to our evermore complex society. Doctors care for your health, police care for your safety, bankers care for your money, but public managers care for your community. Locating good managers can be the difference between declining and thriving as a municipality. LGA is making sure that western PA continues to thrive by placing management experience in the hands of skilled students.
Thank you for your time and enjoy your day.