Grove reflects on trip to China
by Matt Shinall
Jul 21, 2013 | 1764 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville City Manager Sam Grove returned last month from a diplomatic journey to China where he shared insights on local government at the invitation of the University of Georgia Carl Vincent Institute of Government.

Recruiting government officials from across the state, UGA’s Carl Vincent Institute of Government International Center hosts classroom programs in several regions throughout China as part of a Public Management Training Program. Participating as an instructor, Grove’s trip was funded by UGA to present the fundamentals of American government to Chinese participants.

“I was flattered to be asked and so honored to be able to represent not only our country, but also our community and it was a wonderful experience,” Grove said. “The city works with the Vincent Institute and they regularly identify practitioners like myself and other city managers to travel and teach in various locations.

“Basically I gave them an introduction into U.S. government. I talked about ethics, economic development, environment, citizen engagement and inter-governmental relations.”

Grove’s Chinese adventure began in late May with a trip to Beijing for sightseeing with his wife before heading to Nanchang in the Jiangxi province where he and a representative from UGA led the sessions.

For Grove, many sessions raised intrigue from participants, but the issues of ethics and citizen engagement provoked the most discussion. Participants also were surprised to hear how little influence the state played in local government, including the fact that publicly-elected officials make the final approval for a city budget totaling nearly $150 million.

The presentations made by Grove were the first phase of the Public Management Training Program offered by UGA for Chinese government officials. Those continuing the program will, in the second phase, travel to America and visit sites throughout Georgia, Washington D.C. and New York City.

“The International Center’s instructional programs, technical assistance, and research initiatives are grounded in the Institute of Government’s more than 80 years of experience working with public officials to improve governance and people’s lives,” states the Carl Vincent website, “Chinese local and provincial public managers can develop their administrative and leadership skills and improve government efficiency and responsiveness through the International Center’s comprehensive public management training program. More than 1,200 government managers from cities and provinces including Beijing, Tianjin, Sichuan, Qinghai, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, and Shanghai have participated in the International Center’s two-phase training program since its creation in 1999.”

Grove returned home on June 8 with insight on how another culture works and how Chinese governments operate as well as seeing new examples for traffic control and historic preservation, but it was the people he met that made the biggest impact.

“The people were wonderful — the people in the class, all the people we dealt with — they were open and engaging, very gracious and wanted to make sure we had a good time,” Grove said. “It was fascinating to me to go half way around the world to people of a different culture and realize that you can go talk to folks about a town of 15,000 people in the United States and there was something to be learned. And then realizing that even though you don’t speak the same language, you have a lot in common despite the fact that the culture and the government and the lifestyle is completely different.

“There’s just something within each of us — a basic humanity or a basic nature — with which we relate to one another and that to me was wonderful to meet the people and spend time with them.”