‘Twinning’ Millennial Chiefs-of-Staff Bring Fresh Perspective to Penn. City Halls

Millennial trail blazers are bringing a fresh perspective as chiefs of staff in neighboring Pennsylvania cities.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Aside from their obvious resemblance, the new chiefs-of-staff to mayors in Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, also share a similar millennial philosophy when it comes to working for the public.

Matt Johnson and Philip Given are both millennials working as chiefs-of-staff to the mayors in neighboring Lancaster and York cities in Pennsylvania.

The similarities don’t end there, according to the results of their first meeting, arranged by the York Daily Record.

Johnson, 35, and Given, 30, bear a striking resemblance to each other; they look like they could be brothers. But, it’s the passion for the job and their approach to handling their responsibilities that adds to the uncanny similarities in towns that have a history of rivalry — an American War of the Roses, of sorts.

Millennial Trait: Leverage Resources

Unlike past generations, neither Johnson or Given plan to still be working at City Hall until retirement, a common career characteristic of a millennial.

We’re of the generation that, A) doesn’t like to be put in a box and, B) doesn’t really have a box to be put in,” Given said in an interview with the York Daily Record. “Almost none of us are doing the same thing for 30 years.”

Philip Given, chief of staff to York Mayor Michael Helfrich. Image: Facebook

But, that doesn’t mean they haven’t jumped into the role of chief of staff with both feet and plan to learn as much as they can. As a public servant, Johnson said familiarity with the city and how things work is imperative.

“I hate to be Leslie Knope-ish about it,” Johnson said, “I’m just blown away by not just the wealth of knowledge, but everybody’s image of a bureaucrat is completely wrong. These are people that just know their area left and right.”

The reference to the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation” character is apt, down to the dedication to citizens.

The best type of bureaucrat is someone who can navigate the system in the best way possible,” Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Given hit the ground running in order to do just that:

“It was just a couple days into their new jobs when Matt Johnson sent Philip Given a message. ‘Did you figure out what we’re supposed to be doing yet?'” Johnson reportedly inquired.

Millennial Drive to Do ‘Good Work’

Going in, Johnson expected to execute a specific plan of attack each day, and was surprised to learn that often, the day has other plans.

Matt Johnson, chief of staff to Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace. Image: Facebook

“Right now, I’m just trying to keep my head on straight,” he said. “I thought I would be able to structure my day. The major part of the job so far for me has just been adaptability. You come in, you want to push this agenda, you have this idea that you want to do and then someone calls and it throws your whole morning into disarray.”

Even with the chaos that comes with running a city government, both Johnson and Given hope they can make an impact that will help each town run smoother and more efficiently.

Given gave an example of a change that has already been implemented: streamlining the approval process for use of York’s city parks. Where previously, every request was required to be signed by the mayor, smaller gatherings can now be approved by department heads at a lower level.

“We trust that everybody else has done their job,” Given said.

Learn more about these two trailblazing millennials in a video created by the York Daily Record:

Access the original story on YDR.com.

Read additional EfficientGov coverage on the career habits of the millennial generation, and how local governments can attract them:

Do You Know What Millennials Want?

About the author

Rachel Engel

Rachel Engel

Author Rachel Engel is also Associate Editor of Military1.com. She is based in Kansas.