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From an Intern's Point of View

Inspiring leaders of tomorrow is the key reason that Springfield Township participates in the Ohio Public Leader Fellowship program with Miami University.  The Ohio Public Leader Fellowship program provides students with a practical, co-curricular experience that enhances their understanding of the inner-workings of state and local government institutions. Students accepted into the program receive paid fellowships through Miami University that are selectively assigned to state or local government institutions or to related public or non-profit agencies throughout Ohio. The fellowships support special projects that are designed to meet the needs of partner agencies and the professional interests of Ohio Public Leaders. 


Now in the Township's fourth year of the program, we thought it would be special to share a bit of the experience with the community. For the next few weeks, Springfield Township is hosting Ryan Geary, who is in her senior year majoring in Political Science with future plans to attend law school.  We have asked Ryan to write short "blog posts" about her time learning and experiencing the different departments in Springfield Township. We invite you to follow Ryan on his journey through a short series of posts over three weeks. 


Post #1,Week 1:

Just over a week ago, I had the great pleasure of beginning my work as an Ohio Public Leaders Fellow in the administrative office of Springfield Township. With fairly limited knowledge of and experience with the structure and function of local government (outside of a political science classroom), I was left with little idea of what to expect from my time at Springfield Township. As I would soon to come to find, anticipation is quite often a futile practice in the work of local government, as the “average day” is near impossible to define. This is not to say that local government is unstructured or disorganized (quite the opposite, actually), but rather the versatility and dynamism of character and skill required of its employees for its successful undertaking is significant, and certainly beyond my expectations. As has been my experience thus far, and certainly that of the Township administration’s long-time employees, departmental boundaries as far as overlap in work seem to be generally thin. Most tasks tend to involve at least one other department or field of expertise.


            In my relatively short time working at the Township, those in the administration with whom I have worked have been extremely accommodating and have expressed no qualms toward immersing me fully in the local government experience. Compared to other legislative and governmental intern positions I have held, never have I been so quickly and thoroughly engrossed in meaningful work than I have at Springfield Township. I have often found it to be the case in other workplaces that offices tend to either micromanage and underwork their interns, who ultimately gain nothing of educational value from the experience, or throw them immediately into the breach and look in the other direction, leaving them to flounder amid an overabundance of work with little instruction or direction. What has greatly impressed me about Springfield Township is its staff members’ willingness to take moments of their time to engage and explain their work to me, are simultaneously willing to entrust me with meaningful work, effectively hitting the ‘middle ground’ so to speak. This was evident from my first day of work. Not moments after setting my briefcase down on my first day, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with several employees of the administration to sit-in on a conference call regarding Township action in an ongoing case involving a noncompliant business owner. Almost immediately thereafter, I got to accompany Captain Stine of Springfield Fire Department to the site in question and engage firsthand with the noncompliant business owner. All within the first two hours of beginning my fellowship, I came away with a highly positive and educational experience that made me feel as if I were already a contributing part of the office. On occasions like this, where I have been permitted even to just sit and observe, I have been able to lean a great deal, and am greatly appreciative of the staff’s accommodation.


            As the Springfield Township administration is directly connected to the Township’s primary fire department, I have been able to spend a good amount of time during my first week working with members of the fire department on a variety of tasks, especially the Fire Chief, Rob Leininger. An ongoing project of his, upon with which I have been able to assist, has been his legislative and lobbying efforts. Currently, he is seeking to bring legislation to the Ohio General Assembly that would allow for in-home medical treatment performed by Ohio Fire and EMS to be supported by Medicare, allowing for fire departments to save valuable money and time when responding to distress calls. Additionally, he is working on a proposal to lobby the Mercy Health Foundation for a grant to fund a community paramedicine program for Springfield Township. Such a program would fund an otherwise pro-bono program currently administered by the Springfield Fire Department that seeks to address community public health needs and optimize health and lifestyle related referrals for service. I have greatly enjoyed working with the Chief and appreciated his reliance upon me to assist him in work.

           

     In short, I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience working at Springfield Township thus far. This great opportunity has afforded me the chance to learn a great deal in a multitude of areas in a relatively short time. I greatly look forward to the remainder of my time here.


Post #2, Week 2:

My second week as an Ohio Public Leaders Fellow at Springfield Township saw me delve into a variety of administrative and departmental fields as I continued my work under the Township Administrator. Over the past week I found myself sitting in on meetings with community action groups and developers, engaging local businesses as I shadowed the fire inspector, and even going on a call with some of the brave men and women of the Springfield Police Department, just to name a few things.


            What has become increasingly apparent to me in my observation of the function of Springfield’s local government is its sheer versatility and responsiveness to its constituents. Unlike the federal government, which enjoys the luxury of nigh unlimited capital and human resources with the capacity to specialize to meet even the most specific needs of citizens, local governments like Springfield Township must operate with severely limited funds and employees whose required policy expertise must exceed that of three congressional staffers. Chris Gilbert put it best when he said that employees of the Township, in order to perform their jobs as successfully as they do, must be generalists in the truest sense. Those in the Administration must boast the unique and valuable skill of being quick studies; able to become experts in a given policy area in the length of a day in order to meet the needs of an entire Township. As Chris told me at the beginning of this week,“The true challenge, but also the most rewarding part of this job, is that I could be shoveling driveways one day and negotiating a $20 million development deal the next. The Township model of government demands efficiency, and it is because of this that we are able to be as responsive as we are.”

             

     Having worked (however briefly) among the Township Administration, I can attest to the diligence of its workers and the impossibly broad scope of issues in which its administrators remain well-versed. From transcribing a zoning permit application from English to Spanish, to analyzing survey data for ArtsConnect, I have been able to enjoy a small sense of the breadth of local government work. As I begin my final week with Springfield Township, I am able to take solace in the fact that I have already learned a great deal, while looking forward to whatever new and diverse array of policy issues will present itself to the administration this week.


Stay tuned for Post #3