Among the first things Nigel Black did after moving to Newfoundland in 2010 was search for a municipal administrators’ association to join.
It wasn’t just because he was looking to meet other town and city administrators, but that was certainly a part of it. Black says it was because he had once before been part of a similar union and saw the benefits it yielded for its members.
And now, a decade after he found the Professional Municipal Administrators, he is its President.
The group represents non-elected city and town administrators like managers, clerks, chief administrative officers and department heads in Newfoundland and Labrador and co-ordinates training for members and all municipal staff.
It’s this profession-wide training program, combined with professional development opportunities and information bank for members that Black says is at the centre of the PMA’s value proposition for its members.
“There is always turnover, new people and new responsibilities, so having consistent information and guidance is a big thing for our membership,” he says.
WHAT IT OFFERS
Black says the PMA recommends all municipal employees, whether members of the association or not, should enroll in its core programming called the Five Key Modules — municipal roles, responsibilities and relationships, municipal office administration, cash-handling, budgeting and financial evaluations, municipal accounting and municipal planning — to ensure they understand the big picture.
“This is one of our highlight programs and really helps get new admins ready for their roles. We have more advanced modules that can follow, too — we do whatever we can to help people be effective,” says Black.
The association also provides advocacy for its members and a database of information on policies and procedures to help streamline documents.
“We don’t want to be reinventing the wheel each time, so our database is a resource for our members to go and grab whatever documents or templates they need,” says Black.
FINDING COMMON GROUND
The association was founded in 1972 and now counts 250 member towns and 360 individual members. It is governed by an elected board of directors and supported by a full-time executive director.
Black says it was likely started for the same reason any association is: to share resources, network with fellow professionals and receive better representation.
He has served as the association’s President since June 2018 after he served as its Vice President. After two decades in the profession, he says he’s found the most rewarding part for new members is the networking opportunities afforded by getting involved. He says many are frequently surprised by the common issues, challenges and situations they discover other members are also facing.
“A community of 250 people where you’re a one-person admin can actually have similar challenges to someone running a 25,000-plus municipality,” says Black, recalling when he met with other administrative professionals and made his first industry connections.
“And especially for someone coming from a small community — finding they can converse with someone and finding similarities can mean a lot.”
IT’S FUN, TOO
Black says new members may also be surprised by the membership’s sincere enjoyment derived from association meetings and activities. He says this too should be considered as part of the association’s value proposition for its members.
“People often join because they want to meet people, but they find that [the association] is a place where genuine connections are formed that continue even outside of our events and communications,” says Black.
“We try to have fun at these events, and always hear of people meeting others who then become a friend who you can pick up the phone and call at any point in time.”
Black says anyone interested in becoming involved or learning more about the Professional Municipal Administrators Association can contact Executive Director Krista Parsons in St. John’s at 709-726-6405 or [email protected], or visit the PMA website at www.pmanl.ca.