Evansville City Administrator Ian Rigg is getting an international perspective on the best way to manage a community.
Rigg participated in the International Manager Exchange Program, which matches high-ranking city employees with leaders in other countries. Participants job shadow each other in each other’s countries and learn about the cultures and communities.
Participants spend two weeks in the others’ countries and attend an annual meeting or conference with other leaders in the host country.
Rigg was matched with Emma Davis, who runs the department for strategic policy and natural environment for the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. Rigg spent two weeks in New Zealand earlier this year.
Rigg said he is covering all of his own expenses associated with the program.
“I feel that I’m a lifelong learner, and this would be a chance for me to learn more about local government in a different setting and refresh a number of ideas that I may have or provide me with new ideas or approaches on how I do my job,” Rigg said.
Rigg said his biggest takeaways were the importance of local government. He said that despite New Zealand having a smaller population than Wisconsin, he was inspired by the country’s ability to work toward big issues.
“Here’s this country that’s doing all these things to combat big things like climate change, and they’re really relying—from what I can tell—on local government to carry out a lot of the work,” he said.
While he’s still working on the best way to implement and use his new perspective on Evansville, the message was received, Rigg said.
“When you think about what Evansville is to Wisconsin and what New Zealand is to the world, no matter your size, there are things that you can do, and there are changes you can make,” he said.
Davis said the program was a learning experience for her, too.
“I think that New Zealand’s location, it’s far away from many other places, so it was an opportunity for me to see how another country deals with issues in local government,” Davis said.
The pair is headed to Nashville, Tennessee, for the the International City/County Management Association Annual Conference for the next few days to attend courses and meet administrators from Canada and the US.
Davis said she is looking forward to Nashville, but getting to sit down with a state senator at the Capitol in Madison last week was a nice perk. One of her areas of interest is climate change, so it was nice to talk with Rigg and other area leaders with fresh ideas about that issue.
“It was very interesting to see how local government operates with the state government and some of the relationships there, so that was a learning experience,” she said.
For both, the experience has allowed for growth.
“I think it really provides the opportunity to look at things through a new lens and take into consideration the different ways people are doing things,” Davis said.
Rigg agreed, saying the exchange program will make him a better leader.
“Breaking down barriers and learning new ideas is important for people in my position,” he said. “You have to continue learning new things and gathering ideas from other places so that way each time you get a little better at everything you have to do.”