In The Arena

By Cathilea Robinett and GOVERNING Magazine

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.

Category: Local

Open in iTunes

Open RSS feed

Open Website

Rate for this podcast

Subscribers: 7
Reviews: 0


Taken from a famous Theodore Roosevelt speech regarding his own time “In the Arena,” this podcast features government officials who are truly making a difference and challenging the status quo. Governing President, Cathilea Robinett, tours you through the halls of cities, counties and states to bring you a slice of what is best in American leadership today.

Episode Date
Young Mayors: Recorded Live at GOV Summit on Government Performance and Innovation

U.S. mayors have a lot on their plates these days. From infrastructure to climate concerns, today’s rising class of local politicians are changing the way things are done and seeking out creative solutions to help their residents. Four of these promising leaders had the opportunity to speak on a panel at Governing’s Summit on Performance and Innovation last month. Mayors Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn., Jenn Daniels of Gilbert, Ariz., Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, Minn., and Francis Suarez of Miami, Fla., shared their experiences bringing new perspectives to their governments.

For more on this podcast, or to subscribe for free on major platforms, visit In The Arena online at


Jul 09, 2019
Chris Castro, Director of Sustainability, City of Orlando

Chris Castro is full of big ideas, and he’s ready to shake up how local governments do business. Castro’s love for the environment grew on his parent’s palm tree farm in Miami. Now, he combines that passion with innovation as Orlando’s Director of Sustainability.

His project includes the city’s Fleet Farming program, which provides nutrition to food insecure communities by turning front yards into small farms. But Castro has another ambitious effort underway: making Orlando carbon-free by the year 2050.

There is more about Chris and the In The Arena podcast at

Jun 25, 2019
Kim Foxx, State's Attorney for Cook County, Illinois

Kimberly Foxx is unapologetic for where she came from and what she believes in. Foxx grew up in the 1970s and ’80s in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green public housing project, a development known for high crime rates and police neglect. Her family later moved to the more affluent Lincoln Park, but her background shaped her in meaningful ways. After moving, she started to notice the disparate opportunities available to her new neighbors versus those from her old housing project.

That seed later grew, driving Foxx to leave her position in insurance law to work with the Cook County Public Guardian’s office representing children in the foster care system. This role cemented her desire to work in public service. Foxx eventually served as an assistant state’s attorney for 12 years. In 2016, she challenged — and beat — the incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to become the first African-American to hold the position. As top prosecutor of the nation’s second-largest county, Foxx oversees more than 1,000 people. In this role she has worked to make the office more transparent, advocate for bond reform and vacate dozens of wrongful convictions.

These efforts drew Governing magazine’s attention, recognizing her one as a member of its 2019 Women in Government Leadership Program.

Jun 11, 2019
Doug Burgum, Governor, State of North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt doesn't have a presidential library. Yet.

A nonprofit foundation in North Dakota, with the help of technologists, historians and Gov. Doug Burgum, is working to correct that oversight.

When Burgum talks about public service, he sounds a lot like Roosevelt, who said, "It is not the critic who counts. ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood."

Burgum says that "anybody with a phone and two thumbs can be a critic." He advises public officials to "stay above it" and muster "the courage to jump in."

He did just that in 2016, when the business man made a last-minute run for political office. He tells those stories, plus reflects on his first 18 months in office, on this episode of "In the Arena," a podcast about public leadership.





Aug 08, 2018
Nan Whaley, Mayor, City of Dayton, Ohio

It is the way things have always been done in Dayton. Neighbors talk to each other over fences and on porches about what they are really thinking about. 

Tapping into that dynamic helped Nan Whaley become mayor in 2013. Even after she won, she still keeps in touch with the Ohio city’s 140,000 residents through "porch tours."

Whaley says she listens fearlessly because she has learned that in public service, you cannot be afraid of failure. Before becoming mayor, she served as one of the city's youngest commissioners.

On this episode of "In the Arena," a podcast about public leadership, Whaley talks about her porch tours and what she has learned from them.

There's more at 

Aug 01, 2018
Steve K. Benjamin, Mayor, City of Columbia, SC

Mayor Steve Benjamin is no stranger to having difficult conversations on a public scale. He got his start in politics as a student activist seeking to bring the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina statehouse.

In his new role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he speaks with and for 1,500 mayors about common challenges -- opioid addiction, homelessness, immigration and trade. In his town, Columbia, he is focused on the “three I's” of city life -- infrastructure, innovation and inclusion.

On this episode of "In the Arena," a podcast about public leadership, Benjamin talks about the things that make cities work at this "definitive moment" in the country's history.

Jul 25, 2018
Kristen Cox, Executive Director, OMB, State of Utah

Kristen Cox knows about constraints. After the fiscal crisis, the Executive Director of the Utah Office of Management and Budget applied the same kind of fiscal stress tests the Federal Reserve uses on banks to do a reality check on the State of Utah’s books. It surfaced both the state’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Her life is really a story about strength and vulnerability. In coming terms with becoming blind, she hit bottom in a man hole. That’s not a metaphor.  Nor is her solo skydiving.  But they do give you a sense of the highs and lows she’s confronted.  And she’ll tell you that embracing your constraints makes for good public policy – and a good life.

Jul 18, 2018
Acquanetta Warren, Mayor, City of Fontana, CA

Mayor Acquanetta Warren credits her father for her big dreams. "You've been to the moon," he used to say. There was some truth to that.

Acquanetta Warren's election in 2010 was historic. She is Fontana, Calif.'s first female and first African-American mayor. Her inspiration for public service is actually rooted in watching history being made.

“My parents would have [me] in front of the TV every morning and every evening watching the news," remembers Warren. “I was really afraid because of the civil rights [protests] going on in the South [in the 1960s]. But the more I became afraid, the stronger I became about what I wanted to do -- and that was to change things.”

On this episode of "In the Arena," a podcast about public leadership, Warren reflects on the importance of teaching kids about the legacies of MLK and JFK, her initial resistance to running for office, the pitfalls of working in public view, and why her father -- an aerospace worker -- used to tell her that she's been to the moon.

Jul 11, 2018
Greg Fischer, Mayor, City of Louisville, KY

On his Inauguration Day in 2011, Greg Fischer turned heads when he announced an experiment to make Louisville "the nation's first compassionate city."

"Nobody disagrees with the concept of compassion. But the question is, how do you operationalize it in a city?"

In the last seven years, the city has worked with local businesses and nonprofits to help answer that question. The Kentucky city's work has helped to forge a model that other cities are watching closely. On this episode of "In the Arena," a podcast about public leadership, Fischer discusses how.

Jun 27, 2018
Themis Klarides, Minority Leader, Connecticut Legislature

Themis Klarides has made a career of defying expectations.

Earlier this year, the Connecticut House minority speaker resisted pressure to run for the open governor’s race in her state. Instead, she's making a play to form a Republican majority and become Speaker.

Klarides, 52, the first woman leader of the House Republicans in Connecticut history, was first elected to the legislature two decades ago. Her path wasn't the most traditional route to public office: A former model and competitive body-builder, Klarides also did a stint as a "ring girl" for World Wrestling Entertainment. Early political opponents tried to hold that against her, she says. "I was the state rep who was a swimsuit model and worked for the WWE," says Klarides, who studied for her bar exams backstage between television tapings of Monday Night RAW.

Jun 19, 2018
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles

On the heals of the 86th annual meeting of the US Conference of Mayors in Boston over the weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says mayors have what America wants. Garcetti, 47, has been testing the waters for a potential presidential bid in 2020.  Even if he doesn't run, he hopes other mayors will. As the chief executives of cities, Garcetti says mayors are "practical, results-oriented, inclusive and decent." In a veiled reference to the current administration, Garcetti laments the current climate, "We have a lot of division, we have a lot of impracticality, we have a lack of experience in government."

"You never win by talking," says Garecetti, 47, a fourth generation Angeleno and self-described accidental public servant, the "highest calling" he says is fundamentally about listening.

He says the mayor's job is to "knit together a narrative" that explains a city to itself.  Garcetti thinks technology can help if mayors strike the right balance, saying too many are either "future phobic" or "future passive." He views himself as "future guiding" as evidenced by the city's recent recognition for its use of data in planning and operations by Bloomberberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities, and Equipt to Innovate, a joint initiative of Governing and the non-profit Living Cities.

Jun 13, 2018
Clay Jenkinson, Humanities Scholar, Roosevelt Expert

On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt gave what would become one of the most widely quoted speeches of his career. In it, the nation's 26th president used his hyperbolic oratory to bear on the themes of leadership and loneliness.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood," Roosevelt said.

While most of the guests on this show will be public officials, our debut episode features humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson. He explores the context of the quote, which inspired the name of this podcast, and how it fits in Roosevelt's world view of power, persuasion and politics. 

"It's probably the most frequently quoted thing that Roosevelt ever said, and if you go into the boardrooms of major corporations or to the offices of CEOs and politicians, anywhere where there is some need for power to assert itself, you almost invariably find that quotation tacked to the wall," says Jenkinson. 

Jun 05, 2018

In a new podcast from Governing magazine, Cathiea Robinett interviews public officials who serve In The Arena today about courage, compassion and creativity in public leadership.  The debut season features conversations with:

  • Clay Jenkinson, Author, Educator, Roosevelt Scholar
  • Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, KY
  • Acquanetta Warren, Mayor of Fontana, CA
  • Themis Klarides, House Majority Leader (D), Connecticut
  • Kristen Cox, Executive Director, OMB, State of Utah
  • Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, CA

Episodes drop every Wednesday, beginning June 6.

Jun 01, 2018