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Serving Sustainably in Las Vegas (with her AB degree)

Alan Flurry

UGA alumna Betsy Fretwell AB ’89MPA ’91 provides an inspiring example of impact, intuition and service:

As part of her high school’s Government for a Day program, Fretwell fatefully pulled the position of city manager from a hat. After a day spent in a position she had never even heard of, playing pretend for her city government, a seed was planted in her mind.

Fretwell didn’t always intend to join the public service arena. Entering UGA as a chemistry major with an interest in sports medicine, it wasn’t until Fretwell took a political science class that she fell in love with the field. She promptly changed majors, and went on to receive not only a degree in political science from the university but continued on to receive a master’s in public administration from the School of Public and International Affairs.

“We had really incredible professors and advisors in the public administration program in SPIA who encouraged us as students to dream big and go after it,” says Fretwell. “We were encouraged to think big, gain a comprehensive knowledge base and build strong relationships. I feel like that helped me throughout my career.”

Fretwell’s dreams of public service took her from Clarke County, Georgia, to Clark County, Nevada, where she found a management internship with the government immediately upon graduation. From there she worked her way up, finding subsequent positions in the cities of Henderson and ultimately, Las Vegas, where she served as city manager for eight of her 17-year-long tenure. Under her leadership, Las Vegas achieved a 4-star community sustainability ranking, transitioned to 100% renewable energy for all city facilities, completed construction of a new city hall and performing arts facility, and improved the city’s equality index score to 100—all accomplished in the midst of recovering from the Great Recession.

At the time of her undergraduate degree completion, political science was still a Franklin College department, though Fretwell's double dawg degrees reach into the creation of SPIA. Her wonderful career accomplishments show how public service requires broad expertise, intertwined with the arts and sciences, in tandem with specialized skills and knowledge. Now that's sustainability.

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