Learning to Lead: A Story from a 2022 CivicSpark Climate Fellow - CivicWell

News & Media

Learning to Lead: A Story from a 2022 CivicSpark Climate Fellow

By Olivia Williams, 2022 CivicSpark Climate Fellow

Climate Change & Energy


March 1, 2023


Serving the City of Monterey Park has been a catalyst for my personal and professional growth. Prior to my Civic Spark fellowship I had opportunities here and there to take small leadership positions and practice public speaking, but these opportunities were always within my field of expertise (zoology and biology). As the leader of the Going Green Program for the City of Monterey Park and the head author of the City’s Sustainability Plan, I’ve been able to seize opportunities and run with them farther than I could have imagined. On a daily scale, this looks like learning how to utilize project management software and introducing it to city staff or navigating lines of communication with external organizations. On a weekly scale, this looks like running a team of 11 from all city departments and creating/implementing a community wide outreach campaign. On a monthly scale, this looks like presenting to City Council and Commissions or providing recommendations for the future of the City.

In conjunction with the development of technical and logistical skills, I have developed a much deeper understanding of how environmental policy operates. Throughout my master’s degree I learned about various environmental policies at a very high level- discussing the Social Cost of Carbon or debating the efficacy of carbon tax vs cap-and-trade. Serving the City of Monterey Park has provided me with insight into how policies are implemented on the ground level and the many challenges that are posed by the unique elements of each jurisdiction. I have a new understanding of how city governments operate, which is something I was completely blind to when I first started. These experiences are exactly what I need to move forward in my career. I had the education, but this fellowship is providing me with the hands-on leadership and management skills that will help me to succeed in a professional position.

If you are you interested in becoming a CivicSpark Partner? The 23-24 CivicSpark Partner Application is now live!

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through April, but partners are encouraged to apply as early as possible so your project is first in line once we launch our Fellow Application on March 13.