SCOTTSBLUFF — Scottsbluff City Manager Nathan Johnson was recently elected president of the Nebraska City/County Management Association (NCMA).
Johnson becomes the first Scottsbluff manager elected to the position since Linda Witko in 1989. J.D. Cox of Alliance held the position in 2015 and Sandy Powell of Chadron was elected to the spot in 2010. The appointment is for one year. The members of NCMA vote for the representative.
The appointment, Johnson said, is an honor for himself and for the City of Scottsbluff to represent the leadership of Nebraska on a national and international stage through the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
Through a joint program with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the NCMA developed a Nebraska-Norwegian Manager Exchange Program. Norwegian representatives came to Nebraska in 2016 and will return in 2020, just in time for Johnson’s term. During the delegation’s last visit, they attended the League of Nebraska Municipalities meeting in Lincoln as well as an ICMA meeting in Kansas City. This time, the delegation would like to spend a majority of their time in western Nebraska, Johnson said. “They’re big history buffs,” he said.
Part of what NCMA is working on is learning from each other, but the organization is also developing a talent pipeline through the university to help fill the gap of manager openings.
“What we’re seeing, especially in our organization, is that we have an aging demographic that are to the point of retiring or getting close to retiring,” Johnson said. “So we want to make sure that there is professional management in these communities across the state.”
Johnson worked as assistant city manager as he learned the ropes of his current position, and he said NCMA is looking at a senior advisor program to help mentor younger administrators.
“(The program is) for these individuals who have retired from the profession, keeping them involved in the profession to help mentor and guide newer managers,” Johnson said. “Right now we have one senior advisor, we’re working on getting two, but we would like to be like some of the other states, like Colorado, where they have different regions for these senior advisors.”
The regional approach would potentially place advisors for metro, central and western regions in Nebraska.
“There’s different issues throughout the state,” Johnson said. “If you look at our issues compared to a metropolitan-class city like an Omaha or a Lincoln, there are very different degrees of complexity. If you look at our community specifically, we’re a very ag-based community where there are different communities throughout the state that have different primary drivers of their economy.”
Ultimately, Johnson’s election as president of NCMA is a positive reflection on the City of Scottsbluff.
“It definitely helps us as a city when we’re trying to make things happen, whether it be in the state Legislature or in various other means,” Johnson said. “We are able to first, know the process. Second, know the people. Third, be able to work with our peers throughout the state to make things become a reality. ... A lot of this is relationship built and relationship driven. As I’m always learning, as we’re all always learning, being able to learn from your peers is key to being successful as well.”