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Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: LaMonica Upton

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

Comments Delivered by LaMonica Upton, Livable Neighborhoods Liason for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS,

On January 11th, 2017

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us.  THANK you to the University of Kansas Public Management Center for offering such a great program.  To the supervisors, managers, Department heads who thought it was worthwhile to expose your teams to such a phenomenal program.  Noel, I am so happy that it was YOU that lead us in this journey.  Your spirit and passion are reflected in the work of the PMC and they are BLESSED to have you.

ELA friends, what an AMAZING journey we are completing today.  We all travelled to this place via different vehicles.  For some of us it was:

Our turn – our organizations have a simple selection process “Your up next”

Good for your career path – taking a leadership class was a part of your “Goals” or a directive from the powers that be.

This is what leaders do – I should take this class and it will look great on my resume

Kicking and Screaming – Why do I need to do this, I’m not a leader, this is a waste of my time

Horseshack Moment – “Oooh  pick me, pick me”

The bottom line is that WE all ended up in the same place at the same time.  Kismet, fate, destiny, coincidence, fluke, chance or one of my favorite words to use “Serendipity”.

Reflect on these things:   We’ve learned a lot ~How will/can we use what we’ve learned?  ~Will it make a difference?  YES IT WILL!! If YOU use it!

As we move from this time and place to the next adventure in our professional and personal lives, Let’s strive to be Multipliers of professionalism, Unity, and Love and Diminishers of Mediocrity, Self-Doubt and Hate.  Fulfill your dreams of your GREATEST.

Trust yourself “Who you are”, Embrace the fact that you have something to offer

Don’t let others design your life for you, be intentional in finding situations that play on your strengths.

It is not simply enough to be Present!!! Amy Cuddy says that “Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”  Our families, friends and communities need US to show up and when we do it gives others permission to SHINE!!!

Thank you

Reflections from Kansas Certified Public Manager Graduate: Kevin Joles

Comments Delivered by EMS & Paramedic Training Captain Kevin Joles, Olathe Fire Department

Kevin Joles, graduate from the Kansas City CPM cohort, with PMC Director Laura Howard, University of Kansas Provost Neeli Bendapudi, and CPM Program Manager Terri Callahan.

Kevin Joles, graduate from the Kansas City CPM cohort, with PMC Director Laura Howard, University of Kansas Provost Neeli Bendapudi, and CPM Program Manager Terri Callahan.

On December 2, 2016

Luckily for all of you over the last week I have reduced my 1 hour talk to a shorter 45 minute yet meaningful lecture on why Terry, Noel, Laura and Jonathon as well as the entire Public Management Center faculty should be the getting awards for this great program and visiting with President Elect Trump about being his advisors over the next 4 years. They all did a great job for us and we thank you for that.

First off, on behalf of all the CPM graduates I want to thank the department heads, managers, and city officials that allowed and supported time away from the work week to allow for us to participate in these programs, again we thank you for the opportunity.

I also want to recognize the folks from the Law Enforcement Leadership Academy and all of the police officers in the CPM classes; it is great to have them here today. I would also like to acknowledge the fact that not only did the Kansas City Kansas Police Dept. lose a key figure in their organization but so did the LELA group here today with the passing of Captain Melton. I’m positive that the unfortunate loss of Captain Melton in the middle of your program, although difficult on all of you made you a stronger and tighter group because of it. We all know the state of our nation and the impact that it is taking on our law enforcement and not only from me but all of the CPM groups, we thank you for your service and daily dedication to all of us.

With the unwritten yet friendly rivalry of police and fire it is not often that a firefighter praises law enforcement, but today I do it for two reasons, they have our backs on every call that we go on day in and day out protecting us from the unimaginable and secondly because my wife has a lead foot and we have 1 hour and 15 minute drive back home and any professional courtesy I can get on the way home is greatly appreciated!

It is amazing how quickly a brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed through law enforcement or the fire service and become even stronger when you are adding a year-long program with hundreds of contact hours. It turns out that those relationships can be created with and without emergency services personnel. All of us are public servants in some fashion and that personality or attribute is what has brought us together so unexpectedly in a short time. I was personally fortunate to form many new friendships along this journey and it would not be possible if it wasn’t for the open arms of all of the CPM classes across Kansas. I did my Capstone project on hiring processes within fire departments and the fact that we spend approximately only 40 minutes interviewing candidates to essentially work with for a 30 year long commitment called a career. I may have to propose that all of our potential firefighter candidates participate in the CPM program with some of our veterans as part of the hiring process to really ensure we are getting the best, because as we know we have all learned a lot about each other personally and professionally this past year!

My work schedule forced me to be somewhat of a vagabond when it came to which class I attended and where. I was fortunate to get to visit the Hays class several times but never the Topeka. We of course had Topeka attendees at every site and vice versa and always welcome no matter where we needed to land each month. I have always believed in the power of networking and this program fosters that belief without it formally being in the curriculum. Who would fathom the lessons learned from employees of wastewater, city hall small business divisions and parks and rec and how relevant it was in the fire service. Certainly not me! The deep thoughts that come from opening your mind to another profession amazed me month after month and the knowledge I gained from all of you is what I will take forward with me.

We all know that there were days where we wish we could have shifted CPM a day or two forward or back because of our busy work schedules, but staying diligent in our commitment we are here today because of it. The strategies, tools, tactics and resources that were learned over the last year are invaluable and should not be taken for granted.

Over time we are given opportunities to make the next step in our careers. Although there was a year-long commitment to this program and it may have not felt like a “little opportunity” but much more like a giant one these are the things that can help propel a career forward to a place none of us ever thought of going.

If we take the advice of our instructors and classmates by seizing opportunities we can do nothing but succeed. Some of us may have never planned on being in a position to make a positive change in our organization but armed with the CPM program we can do just that. Thank you for listening, travel home safe and remember Officers, silver Ford Explorer….firefighter license plates. Godspeed and Rock Chalk!

Public Contests Create Great Communities

By Michael Koss, reprinted from the Kansas Government Journal July 2012 issue

There was a poster hanging in my high school weight room that said “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” For me, the first part has always seemed to be the more difficult of the two. It’s sometimes hard to connect that first step with long-term goals, even if those goals are extremely important.

Local governments have to deal with motivation too. With so many employees performing so many different tasks, it can be hard to motivate all of them to contribute to one over-arching goal. One of the better solutions I’ve heard to this problem came from the City of Olathe.

Olathe used to have an employee incentives program that paid employees for finding ways to save the city money. If an employee came up with a strategy to deliver a service for less than the city currently spent providing that service, and the strategy could be easily implemented, that employee received 10% of the savings.  By offering rewards to each individual, the City was able to motivate all employees to contribute toward its goal of decreasing expenses.  Financial rewards work well because they motivate people with immediate pay-offs for their efforts. That’s why it’s not surprising some local governments are also starting to offer monetary rewards to non-employees to solve problems and improve conditions within the community.

Issues often arise in cities that require creativity and sophisticated solutions. In 2008, after Hurricane Ike devastated Texas’s coastline, the City of Houston, Texas organized a contest to pay for ideas that dealt with the massive amount of tree debris left by the storm. A group of faculty and students at Rice University won the $10,000 first-place prize

Hurricane Ike devastation

by proposing the debris be converted to biomass charcoal, a process that reduces greenhouse gases and creates a commodifiable fertilizer. The second and third place winners received $5,000 and $2,500 respectively, but the City also received hundreds of other free ideas, giving them an abundance of options on how to deal with the debris. With a price tag of $17,500, the useful ideas generated by the contest substantially outweighed the resources devoted to it.

While contests are great solutions to difficult municipal problems, they can also be used to attract residents and businesses. In the fall of 2011, the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania offered $100,000 to the winner of their Experienced Dreamers contest, which invited individuals from across the country to relocate and expand their business in the city. After two rounds of judging, five entrants’ were presented to the public for an online vote. The winner was Tess Lojacono, the owner of Fine Arts Miracles, a self-started business that teaches fine art to residents of assisted living and nursing homes.  The contest not only brought a new business, jobs, and community service to the city, but also attracted many new residents by giving national attention to the city’s high quality of life.

Chattanooga, Tennessee is taking a more hands-on approach to business creation with its public contest, offering their business accelerator and $300,000 in prizes and seed money to the group that comes up with the most viable business plan. Beginning this August, the finalists will face-off in a 14-week contest, and the City hopes their accelerator will develop Chattanooga’s newest start-up company.

While some cities demand tight control over their public contests, some are finding the best strategy is to donate under-utilized public resources to community foundations that manage the competitions.  For example, in Birmingham, Alabama, the City donated a one block, city-owned surface parking lot to a community foundation, which supplied the prize money and solicited ideas for the space.  After almost 3,000 people submitted more than 1,100 ideas, the City awarded $50,000 to the creator of the best idea, a multi-use facility devoted to entertainment and social engagement.

Although public contests can be large, ambitious endeavors, small-scale competitions can also be used to create great communities.  Here in Kansas, the City of Stafford partners with the Kansas PRIDE Organization to put on a “best yard” contest. Each month, PRIDE judges the yards within the City, and each winner gets a $10.00 utility credit and a picture of their yard in the local courier. During the holidays, the City encourages residents to decorate for Christmas by offering the same utility credit to residents that have three or more strands of lights outside of their house. By making small investments in these public contests, Stafford’s city government helps create a beautiful community its citizens can be proud to be a part of.

The success of these public contests hasn’t been lost on national leaders. In March, 2010, the White House directed agencies to identify and carry out challenges, and asked them to address legal, regulatory, technical, and other barriers to the use of challenges and associated prizes. Shortly thereafter President Obama ordered the establishment of, which “empowers the U.S. Government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges,” ( The website creates forums for the public to post and vote for solutions to agency-identified issues. The top ideas receive monetary or non-monetary rewards only if the challenge is solved.  The site isn’t just a great example of how cities can organize their own contests, but many of the challenges also deal with municipal issues, so local officials should consider participating.

City residents want to live in excellent communities, but sometimes they need a nudge to contribute to their betterment. These residents aren’t just customers, they’re also assets. By using public contests to tap into their collective knowledge and skills, cities can attract jobs, find cost effective solutions to difficult issues, and increase the overall quality of life within their communities.

Michael Koss a student in the KU MPA program and serves as the Membership Services Manager for the League of Kansas Municipalities. He can be reached at or (785) 354-9565.