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Career Compass

Career Compassis a monthly column from ICMA focused on career issues for local government professional staff.  It is written by Dr. Frank Benest, ICMA's senior advisor for Next Generation Initiatives. If you have a career question you would like addressed in a future Career Compass, e-mail or contact Frank directly at

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Jun 27

Career Compass No. 31: Political Savviness

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 3:18 PM by Amber Ahlo

In this issue of Career Compass, Dr. Benest shares some ideas on how we can become more astute and effective in the messy political world of elected officials.

I am a planning manager with a mid-sized city. When our staff team presents land-use, economic development or affordable housing recommendations to council, they might accept them but sometimes they do not. Typically, we do a good job of providing data and well-reasoned recommendations but once they get to the public hearing, it’s as if the data and objective analysis do not matter and politics take over. At times, one small yet connected group can shape the council’s decision or completely derail the decision. It is baffling to me and my colleagues.

The political arena seems like an alien world. I don’t get politics. How can our team become more politically savvy?