Garden City Manager finds organization-wide benefits in Kansas CPM program

Matt Allen is City Manager of City of Garden City, Kansas

Matt Allen, City Manager, City of Garden City, Kansas

As City Manager for the City of Garden City, Kansas, Matt Allen has sent 28 employees through the Kansas Certified Public Manager (CPM) program, which is run by the KU Public Management Center (PMC). He has even hired PMC instructors to conduct sessions tailored to his city’s needs.

Although, the CPM program isn’t the only leadership development option that Matt considers for his employees, since sometimes a more traditional industry-specific training is appropriate, CPM is his go-to as an organization-wide training tool.

“CPM is our baseline public service management training that is consistent with our core values and highlights the leadership traits and management skills we expect are present in every management team member,” he said.

Through KU alumni circles, Matt followed the creation and evolution of the CPM program. The high quality of the curriculum and instructors was exactly what he wanted, but at the time, the closest CPM location was Topeka, and sending employees 311 miles away for a class wasn’t a feasible solution.

In 2008, thanks to the vision of Terri Callahan, Kansas CPM Program Director, to bring CPM to the entire state, Garden City found itself as one of three host cities for CPM classes in southwest Kansas, and Garden City’s manager jumped at the opportunity to send his employees through the program.

The first Garden City CPM student was Sam Curran, a department head who wanted to attend, and through him, Matt was able to evaluate the program for the organization’s needs. One benefit they found was that CPM participants interact with public servants from other cities and other agencies, which provides a more robust learning experience.

Curran leading capitol improvement planning

City of Garden City department head Sam Curran leads a citizen-based planning process.

Additionally, students work on a capstone project while in the program. Sam worked on a project to lead a citizen-based Capital Improvement Planning process at the schools and with a community group (pictured here and below).

“We send people we have faith in – to help equip them with either new skills or a deeper understanding of skills they already possess,” Matt said. “This program is something that is easy for our employees to say ‘yes’ to because it increases their marketability as a public service professional.”

While he admits it’s hard to measure the long-term impact of the program on his department or on other organizations that may hire his staff, he recognizes the CPM program’s success among his people in the short-term.

“We have avoided issues related to mismanagement and ethics violations that tend to crop up in local governments and public agencies,” he said. “I don’t know if it is fair to attribute the value of this solely to CPM, but it certainly helps to have trained nearly a tenth of your staff on a common curriculum that emphasizes a public service code of ethics and appropriate personnel management.”

Well aware of KU’s MPA as a viable option, and an MPA graduate himself, Matt still finds value in the CPM, noting that the content of the two programs is similar, and that one of the biggest takeaways for both is the interaction among classmates that develops a lifelong professional network and friendships. Another benefit to both is the interaction with the instructors who become a continuous learning resource throughout a participant’s career.

Matt said, “From an employer’s perspective, when I’m looking at a combination of education and experience and I see that an applicant has a CPM, it means something to me. Coupled with the right experience, I have considered it in lieu of a bachelor’s or master’s degree.”

Curran leading capitol improvement planning

City of Garden City department head Sam Curran leads a citizen-based planning process.

Want to be a part of the 2016 CPM program? Find out more here: CPM 2016. The registration deadline is Friday, December 18.