Municipal Internship Alumni Spotlight:
Darren Reedy, Owner/Consultant of reedyBUILT
Policy and financial consultant to municipal and not-for-profit organizations
Administrator Intern for Town of Didsbury 2009-2010
Bachelor of Management degree from the University of Lethbridge (2008), Certified Management Accountant designation (2015)
Tell us about your experience as a Municipal Intern at Town of Didsbury (2009-2010)
My start in the internship was far from planned. I had never taken any political science courses and had virtually no concept of municipal government. I was a business student that just knew I was looking for something different – something other than being a number in a large corporation or involved in the sale or production of random products. The moment a former intern told me I could be part of planning the future of a community, I was sold on the internship. I had grown up in a mid-sized town and understood how each community has its own look and feel. I wanted the opportunity to influence a community’s growth in the same way that my hometown community had influenced my growth and I was fortunate to be provided that opportunity in the Town of Didsbury.
One of the best aspects of the internship is the advancement opportunities that become available to an intern. For instance, within nine months of starting my internship I was asked to manage the Town’s arena and pool facilities and only a few months later assume leadership in Human Resources. It would be rare for these jobs to be offered to a new university graduate, however, in a few short months as an intern, I had been able to devote every hour learning the operations of the Town and proving my ability to work with people, budgets and make sound decisions. There are numerous examples of interns that have gone on to become the Chief Administrative Officer of towns or villages after their internship. Those opportunities would not have been available if not for the vast knowledge that those individuals obtained through their internship.
The most impactful learning as an intern was the opportunity to shadow the Chief Administrative Officer. I was trusted to be in the room for every decision whether it was a strategic planning meeting, deliberations over budget priorities, the interview of a new employee, resolving an employee grievance, soothing an upset resident or hearing a sales pitch from an interested developer. Having a ‘front row seat’ to learn how and why the CAO made each decision was an invaluable learning experience that will continue to influence my own decision-making well into the future.
What do you find the most rewarding about working in Municipal Government?
The most rewarding aspect of working in municipal government is knowing that the guidance you provide to councils can have lasting positive impacts on the community. A smart policy decision can guide the development of land, the architectural design of new buildings, offer improved recreation services for youth, or reduce the burden on taxpayers. Prior to this career I never enjoyed sales, but today, I would happily spend hours ‘selling’ anyone on the benefits of smart policies such as asset management planning or cost recovery utility rates.
How has the Municipal Internship Program helped prepare me for my career?
The diversity of the internship allowed me to build skills and knowledge in each municipal service role such that I was able to move on to hold careers in recreation, human resources, finance, accounting and government policy and advocacy. Today, when I speak to clients, councils or colleagues about the potential consequences of a decision, I am doing so while drawing on the cross-department knowledge I gained from my internship.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career has been my recent transition from an employee of the municipal sector to where I now operate as a consultant to municipalities and related non-profit organizations. It is a combination of two great environments for me as I am able to remain immersed in the engaging issues of municipal service delivery while having the independence to select the types of projects I want to be involved in.
Advice for Interns:
During Their Internship
The best advice I can share with future interns is that the internship is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. What other time will you be paid to attend numerous conferences and workshops, to shadow leaders and work one-on-one with every department and employee in an organization? You have freedom. You can sit in management team meetings despite no management responsibilities. You can dig ditches, ride with the peace officer or write a recommendation to council. You are unique, the year will eventually end so exploit every moment, work in every department, go to every conference possible and team up with your fellow interns to tour other municipal operations. That opportunity will only come once.
After Their Internship
Maintain contact with your intern colleagues. The trust and relationships that are built with your fellow interns is valuable when you need to reach out for information and those same individuals may refer you to future career opportunities.