Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Time at the Illinois Municipal League 96th Annual Conference

I had a great learning experience last week at the Illinois Municipal League 96th Annual Conference. I attended Friday and Saturday sessions but the conference started Thursday.

I attended 4 workshops and the general session. The general session and two of the workshops are what I'd like to share (and hear from you about).

Our general session was packed with star power - on the day he was to leave for Copenhagen to hopefully secure the 2016 Olympic Games, Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley started the morning with a short address to encourage us as the "front line" in the economic crisis. He spent a few minutes describing the Olympic effort and legacy of how the Olympics have changed the lives of many but particularly two Chicagoans who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf. Regardless your politics - I am here to tell you that the Olympic Games would be tremendous for Chicago. I worked at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta and I can tell you first hand that it will benefit the city much more than it will harm us. Before the Olympics - Atlanta was just another southern city - home to big corporations, Delta, UPS and of course, Coca-Cola. The games transformed Atlanta to the hub of economic activity for the south and catapulted its Hartsfield International Airport to the busiest in the world - supplanting Chicago's O'Hare. But I digress.

Christopher Gardner, NY Bestselling Author of The Pursuit of Happyness and subject of the film starring Will Smith of the same name, was the headliner of the general session and worth every cent Walgreens paid to bring him to us. His talk - "Breaking Cycles" touched on every possible inspirational theme known to man and excited me at every turn. If you walked out of that room unmotivated - well to quote him "If that don't set you on Fire, then your wood must be wet." He was comfortable on the stage and reminded us to do what we loved. I was 100% validated in my current journey by his talk. Honestly - that talk was worth the whole conference to me and I could have gone home. But I decided I should at least try and attend some of the workshops designed for municipal officials.

The two that struck a cord with me the most were "Parks and Recreation: Identifying the Real Needs and Desires of Your Community" and "Using Social Networking Tools To Manage Your Message."

The Parks and Recreation workshop was extremely insightful and energized me for one of my passions for running for office in the first place - providing quality, affordable programs for village residents. The talk challenged us to get feedback and ask our constituents what it was they wanted in the way of programming before we had our strategic planning and gave us tips on how to gather and make actionable the feedback we collect. The passion and energy of our facilitators was infectious and I have already made contact with one of them for some follow-up idea exchange.

Using Social Networking talks was sort of a sales pitch for the company that conducted the workshop but very informative on how to properly utilize these new and every changing media tools to engage your residents. Luckily, Lake in the Hills is already making steps in this direction with its recently redesigned website and e-newsletter, Resident Insider, that goes out weekly. If you are not signed up for it - click here to enroll. They are a great way to be plugged in to what is happening around our community on a more timely basis than our quarterly printed newsletter. There were several discussions on the use of Twitter - which I have not been able to get into personally - and how the IML uses it during legislative sessions in Springfield. I will take a peek at that and I am sure I'll subscribe just out of curiosity.

Overall - I was extremely impressed at the quality of opportunities to learn and network with other municipal officials from throughout the state. I met some very interesting people and look forward to putting in to practice some of the principles I learned this past week.

I would love to hear any feedback and answer any questions you have about this conference. Shoot me a note and I will respond as soon as I can.

Until next time - Happy Fall, Lake in the Hills!

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