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2024 Annual Conference Highlights

The 2024 OCMA Conference, held for the first time at the Hilton at Easton Town Center, was a huge success thanks to the efforts of so many people within OCMA who helped to plan and participated in the event.  The conference had record attendance, with more than 70 first-time attendees, and more than 230 colleagues in local government in Ohio at the conference.    

Wednesday kicked off with an excellent mobile workshop where Megan Meyer gave us a tour of two brownfield redevelopments in Whitehall and attendees heard a presentation about the renovation of the East Market, a former trolley barn complex in Columbus.  Discussion of a stackable, pre-fabricated housing units being manufactured by Connect Housing Blocks that will be assembled across the street from the East Market this summer left participants wanting to come back and see the construction of the nearby residential project. Seeing all of these redevelopment projects first-hand was a reminder of what can be achieved with creative approaches to problem solving, public-private partnerships, and the use of placemaking.  

Yaromir Steiner gave an exceptional General Session presentation on his work with mixed-use developments, specifically highlighting his work in developing Easton Town Center. The value of placemaking, and the intentional design of “negative spaces” that serve as public gathering spots was a reminder for us about the importance of public spaces in our own communities.  

I was also happy that the conference introduced a number of new social events for conference attendees.  Our restaurant romp was a “sold out” event that brought together members from around the State. The Board heard great feedback about this new event, and we will be excited to bring it back in 2025.  

On Thursday, Sheryl Sculley, author of Greedy Bastards and retired City Manager of San Antonio, Texas, gave an unforgettable keynote address on courageous leadership in the midst of a volatile political environment in San Antonio, Texas. It was incredible to hear her story firsthand and consider how we can apply what she learned in our professional lives. We closed Thursday with a General Session from Valerie Lemmie, Senior Advisor for State and Local Government at the Kettering Foundation and retired City Manager, on Achieving Effective Community Leadership. Her discussion about ways that local governments can strengthening democratic principles and further equity in our communities was timely and thought provoking.

On our final day of the conference, I updated members on the strategic planning work that OCMA has done, and provided updates on how the association has been growing membership. Amber Holloway, current Vice President and City Manager for the City of West Carrollton will assume the Presidency of OCMA in July. Amber shared remarks on Friday morning and gave two calls to action: 

First, she urged members to consider serving on a OCMA committee. We need a broad array of voices to shape the future of our organization. The Board can’t do this work without the help and support of our excellent Committees, and this is a great way to get more involved. 

Second, if you can’t volunteer time on a committee, please consider sharing your feedback on the conference and the organization by taking our brief survey (emailed to all conference attendees) or submitting feedback on our website. 

After our opening session, conference attendees participated in strategic planning working groups, heard a general session presentation on the Practice of Government Management from Dr. John Bartle, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and had the opportunity to engage in a professional development workshop on Authentic Leadership and Teambuilding in High-Pressure Environments given by Dr. Don Stenta, Ohio State University.

I want to recognize and thank everyone who made this year’s annual conference such a special event.  The work of the conference planning committee headed by Daryl Hennessey, Karen Graves, Megan Meyer, and Jennifer Teal, and with critical support from Megan Hastings and Sandra Miller from Ohio State, made this conferences one of the best ever. I also want to recognize and thank all of OCMA’s members for your service in communities across Ohio.   It has been an honor to serve as President of OCMA, and I believe that the growth that OCMA has seen over the past year sets the stage for many great years moving forward.  

Dan Ralley

President, OCMA