Meetings: Bane or Blessing? New Resource Center Offers Help

For local agency officials, meetings are part and parcel of public service, but perspectives on meetings vary widely. Many officials enjoy meetings because, as former Lafayette City Council Member and Contra Costa County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema observed, “That’s where all the ideas start growing.”

Contrast her view with that of humorist Dave Barry who quipped, “If you had to identify in one word the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

How can local officials help their communities conduct the kinds of meetings that reflect Uilkema’s perspective instead of Barry’s? In these contentious times, it can be a challenge. The Institute for Local Government (ILG) website offers helpful resources, which are collected in the new ILG Meeting Resource Center ( The center’s offerings include:

For those interested in further exploring the options available for local officials to engage the community in the public agency decision-making process, ILG’s Public Engagement Program ( offers a wealth of resources.

The center is also collecting video clips with insights from current and local officials on how they make meetings successful.

Winston Churchill observed, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Meetings can be difficult, but they offer the opportunity to bring together diverse perspectives in a community and find common ground to address shared challenges.

For better or worse, meetings are central to democratic decision-making. Make them work for you.

Help ILG Improve Its Resources

In an ongoing effort to improve its resources, ILG welcomes comments and suggestions from local officials and staff. For example, are there strategies that work for you in meetings? Is there another dimension of the meeting issue that ILG should address? Do you have an effective PowerPoint® presentation that you have used to train newly elected officials on meeting techniques and procedures?

ILG is also collecting insights from local officials to enhance the Meeting Resource Center’s offerings. Do you know a “meeting maestro” who is exceptionally skilled in making meetings productive?

Share your suggestions and insights with Randi Kay Stephens, program coordinator, at; fax: (916) 444-7535; or phone: (916) 658-8207. ILG publicly acknowledges all contributions to its work in service to local officials.

This article appears in the March 2013 issue of Western City
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