Dayton, Ohio, City Manager Valerie Lemmie could have chosen to work in government, or to get on track to become president of a national organization, or to serve on the board of Public Technology Inc. (PTI) or to become an adjunct professor at a university.
Any of those options would have helped her groom the next generation. But Lemmie chose to do them all at the same time -- now. "I think it's very important for us in the profession to take responsibility to ensure that we train and develop staff in our organizations and provide them opportunities to enhance their contributions to the community," she said. "It's also important that we work with students to encourage them to take positions in government because this is the most rewarding of all professions out there."
Lemmie worked for the city of Kansas City, Mo., as chief of the Independent Monitoring Unit and project director for the Integrated Services System. She was also director of the Department of Environmental Services for Arlington County, Va. Lemmie worked for the federal government, including a stint as the deputy director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, until she felt a strong desire to return to local government.
She then spent four years as city manager of Petersburg, Va., a city of 37,000 residents. This lasted until August 1996, when she grabbed the reins in Dayton, a city of 200,000 residents, 16 city departments, 3,000 full-time employees and an annual budget of $800 million.
Lemmie served as an adjunct professor at Howard University and currently holds a similar post at the University of Dayton. In October 1997, she was appointed a senior fellow for George Washington University's Center for Excellence in Municipal Management. The following September, the National Academy of Public Administration Board of Trustees selected her to be a fellow.
Adding to her busy schedule, she serves as secretary/ treasurer of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) -- and is on track to become its president. Lemmie is also about to end a four-year term on the PTI board as a representative of the International City/County Management Association.
But Lemmie is quick to observe that while the elected officials in Dayton have tremendous vision and commitment, they have also been very supportive of their manager, allowing her to teach, to be active in the NFBPA and remain involved in international issues.
One of those international issues is an official sister-city relationship that Lemmie signed in June in Sarajevo. "It had tremendous significance for us in Dayton because we were known as a city of peace, and tremendous significance for Sarajevo because we are one of the few cities that has been with them not only through the peace process, but
also through their rebuilding process. So the commitment of friendship in addition to peace was just so moving."
Lemmie also has a commitment to the city of Dayton, and she was interviewed a few weeks after returning from her overseas journey.
Q: Talk a little bit about CitiPlan 20/20 in terms of what you are doing, or can do, as a city manager to at least provide the services that people expect.
A: One of the things that I think is really important is to have a vision of what your community wants to be, and that vision then guides you into what services and functional responsibilities you need to achieve or accomplish in order to meet that vision. We did our 20/20 plan based on a visionary
document developed by our city commissioners with six quality-of-life indicators. Those indicators were the vision of this community. If we accomplish all of them, we will be the kind of community those of us who live, work and play here want. And, from that, we get into what are