South Fayette manager travels to Denmark for municipal managers conference

Published Jun 12, 2013 at 12:01 am (Updated Jun 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm)
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Recently, Ryan Eggleston, manager of South Fayette Township, had the opportunity to go to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a conference with other municipal managers from across the country and around the world.

Eggleston has been a member of ICMA, or the International City/County Management Association, since the fall of 2011 when he was manager of Oil City. He is a member of the organization’s International Committee, which he said focuses on “looking at what managers can draw from other managers in the U.S. and other countries.”

The international committee’s conference was held from April 30-May 4 in Copenhagen. Managers from states like Wisconsin, Michigan, California, Washington, Tennessee, North Carolina and Arizona were in attendance, as well as managers from China, Slovakia, Finland, Norway, Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark. Eggleston was the only manager from Pennsylvania at the conference.

Eggleston first got involved with ICMA after longtime city manager Peter Marshall advised him if he ever had the opportunity to be involved with the international committee of ICMA to go for it. He said the city council in his former town of Oil City was very supportive and the board of commissioners in South Fayette has also been supportive of his involvement with ICMA.

“It is a great opportunity for myself personally and professionally and a neat opportunity to represent South Fayette Township,” Eggleston said upon returning from his trip. He added that he was able to go on the trip because the state manager’s association, the Association for Pennsylvania Municipal Management, awarded him a scholarship for $1,500, which covered a large portion of his expenses. The township paid the remainder of his expenses as part of Eggleston’s professional development.

Eggleston said he learned a lot at the conference, which was a mix of meetings, classes and study tours. One thing he said really stuck out as “cutting edge” was something that the municipality of Gentofte in Denmark is doing with its website. Called “Digitalization Municipal Service,” the municipality’s website is a portal for all citizens. Eggleston called it “futuristic” in that all citizens can go on the site, which contains several databases of information. Residents are given a unique identification number to go on the website, which takes them to the portal where they can see anything from their kids’ school schedule and homework to library books that need renewed, and health insurance information. Citizens can also pay bills and renew their passport from the website.

“It was like something you’d see in a Tom Cruise movie,” Eggleston said of Gentofte’s website. “It’s very progressive.”

While there, Eggleston had the chance to meet and speak with Frank Jensen, the mayor of Copenhagen, and also attend a speaking engagement where the prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, spoke.

Eggleston said the trip also provided him with the opportunity to see what municipalities are struggling with or succeeding with, both here in the United States and abroad. He is also toying with the idea of South Fayette having a sister city in another country.

Eggleston said Denmark is very different than the United States in that it is such a smaller area and that most people use either public transportation or bicycles to get around – there are more bikes than cars in the country.

Also, Eggleston said during the conference officials from Denmark talked about how the country has been reformed, going from more than 250 municipalities to 98. He said Denmark has also been affected by the economic downturn, as the U.S. has. “They wanted to try to be more efficient,” Eggleston said. “They’re very progressive on that front.”

“Overall it was a wonderful opportunity,” Eggleston said. “I’m very glad the board of commissioners has been so supportive,” as well as the state manager’s association, Eggleston added.

“It was the best professional opportunity I’ve had,” Eggleston said. “It was a great chance to meet new faces and to represent South Fayette.”

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