Linda Carter FSLCC, SLCC President, gives an update on this year’s International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC) conference
The 77th IIMC conference was held in Minneapolis from 14 to 17 May this year and as SLCC President I was invited to attend. Apart from Rob Smith, SLCC Chief Executive, telling me that I had to carry the UK flag at the opening ceremony, for which I had to get up ‘very early’, I knew nothing about what was expected of me or what the conference experience would be. I assumed that it would be like an SLCC conference but on a larger scale (over 800 delegates!).
An early start on Friday 12 May, and an eight-hour flight, saw me arriving, at lunchtime, at the conference hotel in Minneapolis. My first engagement was the IIMC Board/VIP dinner on Saturday evening, so I was looking forward to meeting up with Rob and planning our programme – unfortunately Rob was ill and couldn’t travel. However, the European contingent and Peter Sass, Vice Chair of Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO) were all there and happy to socialise.
The rehearsal for the opening ceremony was on Sunday afternoon – scheduled for two hours! The state flags made a colourful display at the front of the hall, and the international flags were displayed on the stage – Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Holland, UK and Scotland. The rehearsal was to ensure that they all ended up in the correct place at the right time. The exhibition hall opened that evening with a reception, and I was surprised to see a UK company exhibiting there – Play Innovations.
The opening ceremony at 8am on Monday morning all went according to plan, then, after a welcome from the IIMC President and entertainment, it was off to regional meetings. Regional X1 comprises any country outside of north America having an organisation representing clerks/democratic officers. We currently have two board members – Hans Rijs, MMC, from Vereniging van Griffiers (VvG), and Municipal Clerk to Bodegraven-Reeuwijk in Holland and our own representative, Linda Larter MBE, Chief Executive of Sevenoaks Town Council, who was sworn in at the Annual Business Meeting on 17 May.
The conference was billed as ‘dedicated to being the foremost education and networking experience for municipal clerk professionals’ and the content was much like ours, with sessions related to strategic communication, digital government, ‘how to master the whiners and make them winners’, civility, election security, right sizing the clerk’s office, understanding modern discrimination and diversity in municipal affairs, to name a few.
My first session was called Retire: Let’s Refire which appeared to be related to retirement and, having tried that twice I thought I might pick up a few tips, but the speaker had retired three times and was still working! I also went to the civility session (very similar to our civility and respect project) and mastering the whiners (mainly about positive reinforcement), right sizing the clerk’s office and listened to keynote speakers, Steve Rizzo, who started out as a standup comedian and spoke about using humour and taking the positive from situations, and Pamela Barnum, an ex-drugs officer talking about strategic communication.
All in all, it was an interesting experience but I was struck by the fact that the clerks in the USA attend conferences to accrue points towards their professional qualifications (which might explain the 200+ first time attendees), while we attend to update our skills and knowledge while acquiring Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points – but we all benefit from the networking opportunity that attendance at conferences provides and nurtures.