April 24, 2006 — Pitting rivals University of Utah and Brigham Young University in the academic arena, the Utah City Manager’s Cup is no less intense than a good sports match. In a battle of public management ideas, U of U MPA (Master of Public Administration) students Matt McEwen and Michael Florence won the traveling Cup held annually by the Utah City Manager”s Association (UCMA). The trophy is on display in the U’s MPA office. The competition was held on April 4th in St. George. For the competition, each school’s MPA program selects a team to tackle hypothetical problems facing a local government. They propose solutions which they must defend before a board composed of city managers and officers of the UCMA and the ICMA (International City Manager’s Association), as well as an audience of about a hundred professional administrators, sponsors and MPA students from across the state. After the judges question the teams, the audience gets to grill them. BYU formed two teams for the competition, but neither was able to overcome the well-prepared McEwen and Florence.
The UCMA holds the annual competition to help foster excellence in the two MPA programs, particularly in those interested in local government careers. The UCMA consists of city administrative officials from all over Utah. City Managers and Chief Administrative Officers are responsible for effectively running a city, including the management of public funds, the delivery of services, personnel management, and implementing programs/policies as directed by city councils and/or mayors. They serve at the pleasure of the city council, and face a great deal of pressure to make sure city functions are working effectively. Additionally, the pressure to perform efficiently has increased as the federal government has been scaling back funding for cities over the last two decades. Utah city budgets are heavily affected by the economy, as a major source of their revenue comes from sales tax. Therefore, city managers must utilize a multitude of skills, draw on vast experience, and work long hours to ensure citizen and city council approval. This explains why the pressure and grilling during the competition was so intense: City managers know that a career in city management requires extensive preparation. Just as an MBA prepares students for successful management in the private sector, the MPA aims to prepare one for efficient and effective management in government and non-profit organizations. Because city managers are always striving to keep up with changes in state and federal law, new technology and management practices, city managers train twice a year in conferences sponsored by the UCMA. Despite working many unpaid overtime hours with few opportunities for vacation, city managers/administrators often find satisfaction in a job that offers a dynamic variety of challenges. Many cite the lack of dull moments as a positive. The influence for good that a city manager possesses is another reason many of them stay in the public sector. For more information regarding this article, contact Dan Hannon, Center for Public Policy and Administration, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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