Local Officials Learn in New Ways

Customized mobile classes and workshops allow local government leaders to hit the road as they learn the best ways to serve their communities.

The mobilized learning experiences are conducted by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government in partnership with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association.

“These special programs provide an interactive way for local decision makers to easily access the wealth of expertise available through the university and other entities,” explains Laura Meadows, director of the Institute’s Governmental Training, Education, and Development Division.

Presenting county officials with current information and options about agriculture and water resources was the goal of the mobile class conducted in August 2009. UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and Cooperative Extension Program were also partners for the two-day event, which began with a tour of agricultural research facilities in the areas of beef, poultry, and dairy sciences, and horticulture.

Class participants then traveled to sites in North Georgia where they gained first-hand knowledge about land use implications associated with agricultural industries and alternative agricultural initiatives like growing grapes for wine making. The relevance of state and local water resource management became evident as they visited Lake Lanier and Buford Dam and then heard from fellow local officials involved in a four-county partnership to provide water to residents through the Bear Creek Reservoir.

“Everything we did provided me with timely, useful information on the issues that I am dealing with on the local front,” said Rick Gardner, Bryan County commissioner.

Helping city officials gain the tools needed to be proactive about shifting local demographics through one community’s experiences was the focus of the August 7 mobile workshop in Rome, Georgia. “We were glad to share our story of demographic changes, actions taken, what worked, and what could be done better,” noted Sammy Rich, assistant city manager.

Warren Brown, director of the Institute’s Applied Demography Program, began the workshop with an overview of population trends and how immigration is playing a major role as a source of new Georgians. Rome’s story was told through a mix of presentations, site visits, and panel discussions involving officials from the local government, business, public safety, and health services sectors as well as representatives from nonprofit organizations that serve Rome’s Hispanic population.

“This was an outstanding workshop. The interactive format and different perspectives made it possible for me to gain a great deal of information in a short amount of time,” said Alvin Payton Jr., City of Valdosta councilman