Growing up, I equated public service with careers in the federal government. When I read about City Hall Fellows, I was inspired by the program’s mission to have recent college graduates understand how municipal government serves its citizens while interacting within the larger contexts of state and national government. I liked the balance of work and education that the program afforded and the opportunity to meet and interact with so many different organizations and people within a city.
As a Fellow, I worked in the Baton Rouge Mayor-President’s Office as a special projects coordinator. I got to work on a variety of projects – some directly serving residents, others that helped government itself operate more efficiently. I served on the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative, promoting healthy eating and active living in the City-Parish. I facilitated the technical assistance program through the National League of Cities to curb childhood obesity in the City-Parish. I served as project liaison for the City-Parish’s contract tracking system design project, working with our tech staff and integral departments to create an efficient system that speeds up the time it takes for the City-Parish to process a contract. I also assisted the new Chief Service Officer in developing and implementing a plan to increase volunteerism and to target volunteers to address the city’s greatest needs.
I stayed on with the Mayor’s Office after my Fellowship ended. For the past several months I've mainly focused on the Healthy City Initiative. This includes facilitating monthly meetings with organizations dedicated to healthy eating and active lifestyles, applying for grants around nutrition and physical fitness, and coordinating events. For example, our medical partners will be donating staff and medical supplies for the Louisiana Marathon this January through our Healthy City Initiative. I also look for issue areas that we can take action on. For instance, I'm facilitating a food access meeting with about a dozen organizations this month to look into what folks in Baton Rouge are doing about food deserts and how we can leverage these resources into a common goal. I'm also about to overhaul our current website: healthybr.com.
I would certainly not have gotten this level of responsibility if I had just entered the workforce straight out of college. It is very humbling to be interacting daily with the leaders of this City – an opportunity I got because I was a City Hall Fellow. It’s also been great to have such deep background knowledge about Baton Rouge that I imagine even natives don't have! Again, I have City Hall Fellows to thank for that education.
If last year you had asked me what’s next, I would have said I’d be heading back to my home state of Virginia. Because of the Fellowship, however, I decided to stay in south Louisiana. I love working with the dynamic people who are making a difference in this community.
Emily Patrick was a 2011 Baton Rouge Fellow.
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