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.’’