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Dr. Peg Carlson is director of UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Leadership and Governance.
She teaches newly elected county and city officials how to go from campaigning to working together as a governing body to achieve their goals.
“We help equip public officials with the knowledge and skills they need to lead and govern both in their local government organizations and in their communities,” Dr. Carlson said.
“We have a couple of different broad categories of public officials that we teach at the center and provide services for,” she said. “One category is elected officials, and those are primarily local elected officials, city council members, county commissioners.
“And then the other category that we have a lot of programs for are local government staff, the public service professionals who have those jobs full time.”
One of Doctor Carlson’s biggest challenges is helping elected officials transition from campaigning to governing.
“You can’t govern as an individual,” Dr. Carlson said. “You can only govern as part of this elected group, and so that’s one of the things that we work on with them in terms of what they need to know right off the bat.
“Our motto is you don’t govern alone and we want them to know not only the importance of what it means for them and their roles and responsibilities to work as a body, but we also mean that in the sense of you’re not alone having to figure this out alone.”
Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Carlson:
Dr. Carlson is also a consultant to help solve public problems and offer mediation to conflicts that arise.
“It’s one of the things that I really love about teaching adult learners and teaching in a place like the school of government is that people bring their real life issues,” she said.
Dr. Carlson said they impose a “Vegas rule.” What happens in the School of Government, stays in the School of Government.
“We want people to be very open and honest and vulnerable about saying, ‘Here’s what’s going on back in Catawba county,’ whatever it may be, and looking for guidance, not just from the instructors but from their peers.”
Because Dr.Carlsen teachers executive courses, the problems are rarely hypothetical.
“One of the things that is unique about the School of Government, all of my students are public professionals, so I don’t teach undergrads. I don’t teach graduate students.
“They’re either local elected leaders or their local government staff and because of the way our work is, we’ll go back and forth between teaching a course, but then I’ll be in touch with people where they may call me for followup services or come back to other courses.
“We have kind of an ongoing conversation where we’re learning about their needs and what they’re doing.”
Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Carlson: