Catalyst for Change Shakes Up Governments and Universities

PROVO, Utah – Jun 13, 2019 – BYU Marriott MPA alumnus Scott Sellers had no idea his education would land him a career in local government. Now he is inspiring change across the country through his efforts to connect university students to the world of civics.  

Sellers believes the BYU graduate course catalog is one of the top three most influential books he’s read in his life. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree in recreation management from BYU, Sellers knew he wanted to continue his education but wasn’t sure in what way. “I was one of those lost souls who had no idea what they wanted to do,” Sellers recalls. However, when flipping through the BYU graduate course catalog one day, he realized he wanted to go into government. “When I got to public administration, there were words such as altruism, service, community, building, and making a difference," he says. “All those key words grabbed me. I realized public administration was for me.”

Sellers believed an MPA education at BYU Marriott would provide him with a way to make a difference in the world. He was accepted to the MPA program and in 2006, completed his degree. Immediately following graduation, Sellers became involved in local government as assistant city manager in Centralia, Illinois. In 2008 he moved to Montrose, Colorado, as assistant city manager, and then became acting city manager there in 2010.  His success took him to Kilgore, Texas, in 2011 where he worked as city manager until 2014.

Community leaders praise Sellers for his service everywhere he goes. "I have never seen a council as pleased with a city manager as I have him, through several different people,” says Kilgore mayor Ronnie Spradlin. “Our council every year was even more pleased than I thought was possible."

In 2015, Sellers’s extensive experience in local government paved the way for him to be appointed as city manager of Kyle, Texas, out of forty-six candidates. “The city management thing was just meant to be,” Sellers says. “And as they say, the rest is history.” He is the third full-time city manager in the history of the city and continues to serve in that role. He lives in Kyle with his wife, Amy, and their nine children.

When Sellers was elected, former Kyle mayor Todd Webster believed that Sellers would bring new energy into the organization. “The council was very impressed with his vision on how to move our city forward,” he stated.

Sellers lives true to Webster’s prediction, evident by his efforts and success in connecting universities to local government. He has served as the chair of the City Managers of Tomorrow committee since 2015. The committee functions to increase the number of students engaging with local government in order to build and benefit communities in Texas.

Under Sellers’ direction, the City Managers of Tomorrow committee has already connected fourteen universities to city managers through a Manager in Residence program, which the committee developed. The program connects two city managers to professors and students at universities with students interested in government. “We realized that our focus needed to be getting into the universities and giving ourselves and our time,” says Sellers.

The Manager in Residence program encourages and assists emerging leaders in a way different than government has done before. “We make ourselves available in whatever way the university needs us—becoming mentors and examples to these students and helping to promote the industry from within," Sellers notes. The committee also created an online repository of information for professors to draw on for in-class curriculum.

Student involvement in the Texas City Management Association has significantly increased due to the committee’s efforts. The number of student members has risen from twenty to seventy-five since the committee’s establishment. “There wasn't enough understanding and awareness of the career before,” says Sellers. “For something to happen, we knew we were going to have to make it happen.”

Sellers’ work has inspired a movement connecting governments to universities across the nation. In March 2019, Sellers was asked to speak in a Government to University event held in Washington, DC, hosted by Volcker Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing government management. The conference focused on how universities can establish permanent relationships with all levels of government. Two official partnerships between government and universities in Texas and Missouri were announced based in part on the Manager in Residence program Sellers and his team established. Leaders from across the nation attended the event.

Sellers not only found a home in local government, he continues to make it a home for future generations. When people ask he what he does, Sellers’ answer is simple: I’m a community builder. BYU’s motto—enter to learn, go forth to serve—truly lives on in the heart and life of this BYU Marriott MPA alumnus.

BYU MPA alumnus Scott Sellers
BYU MPA alumnus Scott Sellers. Photo courtesy of Scott Sellers.
Sellers in front of Kyle, Texas, water tower
Scott Sellers in front of a historic water tower in Kyle, Texas. Photo courtesy of Scott Sellers.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erika Magaoay