What do you get when you put together a beach and over 200 (relatively young) local government-sanctioned Microsoft Excel sorcerers from across the state of North Carolina?
A good time if you ask me.
Last week, I had to pleasure of accompanying my team to Atlantic Beach, NC for our semi-annual NCLGBA conference where hundreds of budget analysts come together to network, exchange ideas, get certified, and (for all intents and purposes) meet up later after the formal stuff for a night of drinks and karaoke somewhere around town. Nothing but vibes and great energy throughout the conference. It feels good being in the company of young professionals with similar work experiences and day-to-day challenges.
Although this was only my second conference, I feel as if I’ve slowly grown some degree of a family when I’m there. My work peeps are great already, but when you factor in the extended family of local government budget analysts from across the state, the “sense of belonging” quickly becomes an understatement. Being able to talk shop with friends from Wilmington to Asheville and everywhere in between is a feeling that has me looking forward to our next conference in the winter.
But as with any of my other blog posts, I must highlight the deeper thought that undergirds this experience. While it was great seeing all of my friends convene for a few days of shenanigans, I thought about where many of us would be in the next five or ten years. I daresay that most of us had no intention on being where we are at the age we are. Some of my budget friends wanted to go to law school or do something in business. But like myself, the call to public service drew them in, and they seem happy. I didn’t think that I would be happy with what I’m doing, but here I am. As local government professionals, the career outlook is wide open for us. Many of us strive to one day become city or county managers, department directors, agency heads, and other roles of great responsibility. Somewhere in that room was the next Governor of North Carolina — and they probably have my number.
All of that to say, public service is more than just a job. It’s a calling. A calling that, to the ears of a young professional that has the entire job market open to them, could have been drowned out among the noise of opportunity. We do what we do not (only) because of the job security, but because we genuinely have a heart to serve others and see the fruits of our labor come alive. Whether it be through funding local non-profits to address an important community need or building the bridge between residents and their government, our job is a sacred one. It represents a trust that not only makes us accountable to the citizens we serve, but to each other.
Shoutout to Josh Lozoff for blowing our minds with his Hogwarts wizardry. Now I’m rewatching Cheers thanks to him. 😂