I first learned about the VLGMF (Veterans Local Government Management Fellowship) while attending SFL/TAP at Fort Carson. When I heard about the program I was immediately interested though I was unsure if it would work with my timeline for retirement. I was under six months from retiring, and was still unsure of what I was going to do. Working with the Fort Carson Career Skills Program coordinator and with the VLGMF Program Manager, I was able to find a solution that worked on my timeline.
After being interviewed and offered a fellowship with the City of Manitou Springs Hazard Mitigation and Resiliency Department, I was uncertain of what to expect. My interests in post Army employment were fairly narrow and I was not convinced that this was the right thing for me to invest my time into. I was not sure that working in a local city government would be beneficial for my career goals. I could not have been more wrong. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could apply some of the skills I had learned in other ways. The importance of this program for me was more than just gaining job experience in local government. For me it was a broadening experience which showed me there was more to do with my chosen degree and skills than I had imagined.
While working with the City of Manitou Springs I have been presented with numerous opportunities to fall back on my education in Environmental Science. My department works primarily with flood mitigation projects. Many of these projects are funded through state and federal programs. All involve environmental impact reviews and Endangered Species Act compliance as well as a host of other state and federal laws concerning protection of water resources and public safety. I have been able to get practical, hands on experience with environmental protection issues. I am becoming well versed in floodplain management, stormwater management, and watershed protection. My duties here include inspecting construction sites for compliance with state and city regulations for storm water discharges.
Another benefit of the VLGMF program is an annual membership with the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) and an ICMA Professional Certificate in Local Government Management. With this also comes access to, and networking with additional mentors who are highly experienced in local government. I am finding out more and more that while education is important, and necessary, it is certifications that make you more marketable. I cannot over stress the importance of networking. As part of the program I was also given the opportunity to conduct a ride along with a Park Ranger at Pueblo Reservoir. It was a fantastic experience that I would not have otherwise been able to do.
As I write this, my mentor at Manitou Springs is planning career enhancing training for me. Since working here at Manitou Springs I have had the opportunity to learn about project management. I have interacted with local elected and appointed officials. I recently observed a routine inspection of the city’s record keeping by the State. I have learned some of the language that is important to understand in local government and have a better understanding of how I can apply my own leadership potential in a local government environment. I would never have been as optimistic as I am about a successful transition from the Army without this opportunity with VLGMF.
MSG Kenneth Morris, U.S. Army