My Pool … and the Winds of Change

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By Keith Van Beek

It is over 90 degrees in Holland as I write this article, and it makes me thankful that I have a pool in my backyard. Just about any routine around the house provides an excuse to jump in – mow the lawn, run (OK, maybe walk) around the neighborhood, shoot hoops with my kids – all end with a jump in the pool. But the previous homeowners installed the pool under a big maple tree, and every time the wind blows I have a mess to clean-up in the pool. Suddenly, I can find myself NOT so thankful about the pool and prone to complain about all the extra work caused by the wind. Funny how the wind can change things, including our perspective.

The winds of change are hitting our profession.  A recent check of job openings revealed seven current openings for top executive positions in Michigan (cities, townships and counties). To me, it signals “that day” has arrived that we have been discussing for some time – the day when the baby boomers retire and the next generation of managers step into their place. That discussion has been the driving force behind much of our organizational change. This E-Newsletter highlights many of the strategies we have put into place to prepare for “this day”:

  •   Promotional “rack card” to brand and promote the profession
  •   MME Summer Workshop and ICMA Annual Conference to train us all, old and new
  •   MME Fellowship program to promote opportunities for students
  •   Job openings pages linked on our website
  •   Member News so we can stay connected and supportive of each other

On May 12, the NextGen Committee held a training on “Change Management.”  It reminded me of the Stockdale Paradox, paraphrased to say “retain the faith that you will prevail in the end … and yet confront the facts of your current reality no matter the difficulty.”  That phrase probably describes most of our days, doesn’t it?  We are both an optimist and a pessimist, thankful for my pool and complaining about it. It also describes the concern we have for meeting the challenge of change in our profession. I ask that we ALL participate in our own ways to invest in and promote our profession:

  •   Go to conferences and regional meetings to learn, network, and support each other
  •   Recruit and mentor new professionals into our line of work
  •   Get involved with MME committee work
  •   Stay connected to the website and through the E-Newsletter

I hope to see many of you in Muskegon for the Summer Workshop!


Keith Van Beek
President, Michigan Municipal Executives; Deputy County Administrator, Ottawa County

Keith Van Beek has been the Ottawa County deputy county administrator since 2009, and was previously deputy city administrator for the city of Kentwood. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Cornerstone University. You may reach him at 616-738-4642 or kvanbeek@miottawa.org.