The City of Port Orange has partnered once again with the International City/County Management Association to host a transitioning military officer through the ICMA Senior Fellowship Program.
The program provides qualified military members with a one-week indoctrination into municipal government to prepare individuals to manage military installations.
This is the second year in a row for Port Orange, with only 14 other cities (including much larger ones) across the U.S. also participating.
Mike Whitecotton, 61, is the civilian Director of Emergency Services, Operations, Plans and Security for the Garrison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He is responsible for the daily operations of the installation, its anti-terrorism program, emergency management, security, training, airfield operations and Multimedia Visual Information Support Center.
The retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel (who coincidentally retired from Fort Leavenworth) spent Aug. 5-9 learning about Port Orange, interacting with elected officials and observing all aspects of how the city operates. The goal was to provide him with a better understanding of the various facets of Port Orange government as he researches innovative ideas for increasing efficiency and partnerships.
Mr. Whitecotten toured various city departments, and attended community forums and sessions on community engagement. Also, he exchanged ideas and discussed shared challenges, successes and opportunities with other senior officials.
“We are excited to once again be part of this program with ICMA and to support Mr. Whitecotton as he prepares to transition to manage military installations,” City Manager Jake Johansson said. “Many military installations operate as small towns or cities with many of the same challenges and opportunities in municipal government, so this will be a great opportunity for Mr. Whitecotton to learn about our city and apply practical principals to his next military installation.”
Mr. Whitecotton said, “We are the equivalent of the city manager and the city services that (City of Port Orange) provide. The same thing on a military installation. Our prime mission is to provide the services and quality of life to the soldiers of the United States Army so they can perform their jobs. Everything you do here, but we may do it in a different way.
“It’s been a fantastic experience,” he said. “There are some things I will take back that I think we can improve our base. The way in which the budgeting process and the long-term view, the way in which you develop your budgets and the way you look into the future, that’s something I will take back. We have more of a shorter-term view as to what we are doing on a military installation, in my opinion.”
Mr. Whitecotton also made suggestions, such as to the city’s emergency management division, as the system he operates under at Fort Leavenworth is quite sophisticated and tested in real time.
The biggest takeaway from the experience for him was the employees of the city and the professionals at the army base are not that different. He was impressed with the dedication of city employees across the board, the hours they worked and the positive attitudes he encountered. He was also impressed with all the work involved with potable water and the reclamation process as well as the number of recreational facilities, the new ambulance, and the value and use of body cameras for police officers.
Mr. Whitecotton said about 6,000 live on the base with a total of about 15,000 when you include the work force there.
ICMA is a premier local government leadership and management organization. Its mission is to create excellence in local governance by advocating and developing the professional management of local government worldwide.