Campus News

Public service associate provides legal advice to local governments

When Sandra Hudson began working at UGA

Betty Hudson likes a job with variety; most days, that is not a problem.

Whether meeting with citizens about government consolidation, answering a legal question for a reporter, or examining national trends related to municipal annexation, she stays busy. In her position with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Hudson provides legal expertise on a range of policy and management issues.

Hudson’s work has taken her to communities of all sizes in Georgia.

“It is very gratifying to go into a community . . . and help craft a solution to a particular issue,” she says. “I believe that people look to the Vinson Institute as a proven and impartial source of assistance.”

Hudson’s interest in government work was sparked in law school at UGA when she took a course in the law of legislation. Upon graduation, she went to work for the Office of Legislative Counsel, the nonpartisan unit of the Georgia General Assembly that helps lawmakers draft legislation.

“I had the opportunity to work with individual legislators and committees on numerous subjects including the Athens-Clarke County government consolidation,” Hudson says. “I became familiar with the Vinson Institute and was impressed with the faculty’s ability to see direct impact of their work.”

Much of Hudson’s recent outreach has been to communities exploring government consolidation and alternative service delivery strategies. She helps local consolidation commission members understand the laws related to consolidation and how a new government will affect their community.

“These commissions are a mix of officials, citizens and community leaders, and it is important that they consider as many options and consequences as possible,” she says.

Other local governments want to improve delivery of a specific service. Hudson recently provided legal assistance to three counties exploring how they could work together to provide fire and emergency management services more efficiently.

While the General Assembly is in session, Hudson tracks legislation that may affect Georgia local governments. Her legal research often goes beyond Georgia. As part of a Vinson Institute study for the National Association of Counties, she researched laws in all 50 states regarding how local ­governments raise revenues and restrict expenditures.

Research results are often distributed as reports that can be used as references. Hudson and Institute colleague-attorney Paul Hardy are editors of the Handbook for Georgia County Commissioners and the Handbook for Georgia Mayors and Council Members, all-in-one guides found in government offices throughout the state.

Hudson also helps enhance the understanding of government by making presentations to groups ranging from local officials to high school teachers and by orienting new state legislators at the institute’s Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators.

“These are challenging and rapidly changing times for state and local governments,” she says. “By providing officials with information and options to consider, they can make better decisions to help their communities.”