Clutha-Kansas man­ager ex­change


Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she was whisked away in a big wind, Court­ney Christensen is not in Kansas.

She’s in Bal­clutha, on an over­seas man­ager ex­change with Clutha Dis­trict chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Hill, who will soon be trav­el­ling to her home turf, Mis­sion Hills, Kansas, in the United States, to carry out his part of the arrangement.

Christensen is the Mis­sion Hills city ad­min­is­tra­tor, which is part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Christensen and Hill are on a mis­sion to en­hance their skill-set by gain­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the way lo­cal gov­ern­ment and coun­cils work in each other’s coun­tries.

They ap­plied for the ex­change through the So­ci­ety of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Man­agers - SOLGM. Both have worked in their ex­ec­u­tive roles for 17 years. Both have two chil­dren and love dogs.

There are many sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween their jobs and the role of coun­cils in their home dis­tricts.

But there are a few dif­fer­ences. For in­stance, Mis­sion Hills has just five coun­cil­lors, plus the mayor, none of whom are paid for their ser­vices to the com­mu­nity.

‘‘By state law they must be paid a min­i­mum of $1. Each year we write each elected official a $1 cheque and then at their re­quest, we lam­i­nate it so they can keep it for­ever,’’ Christensen said.

Part of her role is to help find peo­ple who will give their time to the city coun­cil.

Un­like New Zealand coun­cils, Mis­sion Hills coun­cil­lors are elected only for a limited term of four years.

Sim­i­lar to the Kiwi sys­tem, lo­cal res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to be­come board mem­bers but at Mis­sion Hills these boards do not com­prise of any city coun­cil­lors.

Christensen said she was ‘‘tag­ging along’’ with Hill and learn­ing about many top­ics of in­ter­est, just as he will in the States.

A full time (un­paid) mayor was an­other big dif­fer­ence; even in the largest cities with pro­fes­sional man­agers, the mayor is part-time.

She was com­pli­men­tary of the dis­trict’s pub­lic toi­lets, de­scrib­ing them as ‘‘fan­tas­tic’’.

‘‘We need to all do more with this issue in the US. The other thing was the fan­tas­tic Trust­power Awards. We do not have even a re­gional recog­ni­tion for the great vol­un­teer projects go­ing on in our metro area.

‘‘Recog­ni­tion has got to be a great en­cour­age­ment to all of the vol­un­teer work­ers in your coun­try.’’

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