TRUE CAROLINA BLUE: Matthew Osterhoudt

by Whitney Harris ’15
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of the MPA Alumni Newsletter Impact

Matthew Osterhoudt’s passion for public service was inspired by his upbringing in a US Navy family. He grew up along the coasts of Virginia, California, and Hawaii before landing in North Carolina for college.

“Growing up in a military family instilled a sense of public service in me and established my core values,” said Osterhoudt. “Living on the coast taught me the importance of supporting a community in its efforts to thrive and grow while ensuring that natural resources are protected for future generations.”

Osterhoudt attended North Carolina State University, where he earned a BS in natural resources concentrating in marine and coastal issues. He has worked for Sarasota County, Florida, since 1999. Currently manager of the environmental protection division in the planning and development services department, he has also served in leadership positions for the natural resources department, conservation and environmental permitting division, and mosquito management division.

“I’ve wanted to make a difference in my community,” Osterhoudt said. “I work to build bridges between people and find common values among different sides of an issue. This challenge drives me to excel as a public service leader.”

Osterhoudt has worked for Sarasota County for nearly 16 years with an environmental focus; however, has had many opportunities to collaborate with (and learn about) a broad range of other local government services such as planning and development, parks and recreation, stormwater, transportation, utilities, public works, and health and human services. In addition, he has worked on special projects and initiatives outside of the scope of his regular duties, including serving as an acting director and interim manager and working on amendments to the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan.

“Embracing the varying and broad scope of these projects has invigorated my passion for personal growth, broadened my understanding of local government, and bolstered my commitment to public service.” he said. “My professional goal is to serve in county or city administration, where there is an opportunity to facilitate multiple desired community outcomes.”

As a result, Osterhoudt decided to pursue an MPA degree and entered the Carolina MPA program in 2013, the first year MPA@UNC was offered. “The online format gives me the flexibility to work full time, pursue the highest quality education, and be there for my family,” said Osterhoudt, who has two young children.

He attended the 2013 and 2014 public administration conferences, where he met faculty and fellow students. “It was an amazing experience to meet classmates face to face and realize that the rapport we had established online translated well in person,” he said. “These strong relationships are one of the great successes of the MPA@UNC program.”

Osterhoudt tries to make as many connections as possible between his MPA coursework and his work with Sarasota County government. “Class assignments have given me a reason to reach out to departments in different ways and build new relationships,” he said. “I have not only learned more about public administration through this program, but also about my own organization.”

MPA@UNC students share common experiences with their residential counterparts, including the summer Professional Work Experience practicum. Osterhoudt’s PWE involved working with Sarasota County administration to reorganize a department. “I grew personally and professionally during that process,” he said. “It was challenging work with many important and sensitive issues, but it was also an excellent learning experience.”

Matthew Osterhoudt currently serves as Manager of Planning and Development Services, Environmental Protection Division, for Sarasota County Florida.