Advice from Women Leading Local Government Transformation

In celebration of Women’s History Month and all the amazing leaders in local government, we hosted a panel of public sector leaders to talk about the transformative changes needed to best serve our communities now and into the future. The inspiring panel discussed everything from the critical experience that should be on the resume of every great (future) government leader to how innovative leaders are partnering with peers across departments to drive change, and what you can start doing today to lead local government transformation in your city or county.

Our all-female panel included:

  • Elizabeth M. Tanner, Esq., Director, Department of Business Regulation, State Rhode Island
  • Jennifer L. Olzinger, CPPB, NIGP-CPP, Assistant Director/Procurement Manager at City of Pittsburgh
  • Johanna Hernandez, Deputy Director, Community Engagement at City of Tucson, AZ
  • Amber McClure, Solutions Architect, OpenGov; former Chief Budget Officer, Escambia County, FL

Here are just a few great pieces of advice shared during the discussion. The full discussion is available for download here.


As a leader, how do you stay mindful (and remind those around you) of the importance of who’s at the table and who’s missing?


“This is not going to happen organically, it has to happen intentionally and thoughtfully. And it’s something as a city, we put a lot of emphasis behind, so much so that we’ve developed specific training around understanding, identifying, and engaging your stakeholders, and your stakeholders include your coworkers and the people in the community and everybody in between. Every project we try and say, ‘Okay, who are the key stakeholders?’ and one of the problems we have is people think too narrowly too soon. They need to think bigger about who should be there.” – Johanna Hernandez

“I’ve empowered my administrative assistant to remind me. She’s just a different version of me and so she’ll be like: You know you’re the only woman in the room right, you know, or you know that you don’t have it, you know so. So I’ve empowered her to give me a little reminders as they are needed and and that works well, because sometimes you don’t want them there right, for whatever reason, but, but she pushes me and so I’m lucky to have someone who I can rely upon for that.” – Liz Tanner


How have you relied on mentors/mentorship – how did you get those people into your corner?

“I’m someone who was often the youngest person in a room and very often the only female for years and years and years. As a mentee right, I had to rely on mentors and and that’s not a bad thing, and I think that that’s something we need to ingrain, and, mentees, there’s nothing wrong with accepting and asking for help. You need to trust that there are people there who are just as invested in your success as you are. It’s ok to say I belong here. You don’t have to justify your presence anymore. You belong here. If you didn’t, you would not be in this room, you would not be at this table and so it’s okay to own that intake up that space.” – Johanna Hernandez

“It’s sometimes hard to find a mentor, but go find yourself one if you want to grow in your career. Find somebody in your field that you admire and introduce yourself to them at a conference or through an email. There was a gentleman in the procurement world that I heard speak at a conference, and I was just blown away how he changed his whole team out in California. I went and spoke to him afterwards and anytime I see him at a meeting or something, I’m always making a conversation with him. We’ve become friends. I’ve asked him a lot of questions and he’s given me great guidance. So, just go find yourself a mentor. Go find somebody who you know you want to be more like. Ask them how they got there and you’ll be surprised how people are willing to help.” – Jennifer Olzinger


Can you talk about your experience driving innovation and technology programs and what has that work meant for your career direction?

“Don’t be afraid to break things. When I started in my position, they handed me a set of timesheets that I needed to sign off on. And I said, you’re kidding? They said that’s the way we’ve always done it. And I’m like: Has anybody ever tried to do anything else? Everybody told me, no, no, no, no, no, you can’t do it. At the end of the day, I had an employee who spent 65-75% of her week processing time sheets, plus all of the storage of those timesheets in my building. We instead found a software program that we could do timesheets with and it takes her two hours a week now, instead of 75% of her time.” – Liz Tanner

“I’ve worked really hard to use technology to make things accessible for people. That started with like digital records court case records at the Federal Government, and it goes, all the way to last year, we published the city’s first all-digital budget book through OpenGov. And the way that makes things accessible for people is it there’s really there’s no words to describe it for people right, because we can we can bring it to them at the level that they’re at, the place that they’re at. The other way we really use technology to help meet people where they are is by funneling information. We’ve got all of this information out there and we need to funnel it down to useful bits of information, so that we know where to focus our efforts. That has impacted my career so much that it is the path that I’ve taken.” – Johanna Hernandez


Advice for the Next Generation of Local Government Leaders

We’re so grateful to this powerhouse team of panelists for sharing their time and advice for this impactful discussion. For even more, download the full webinar here. 

Category: Thought Leadership

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