Writer: Roger Nielsen and Jana Wiggins
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s robust training partnership with the Georgia Municipal Association helps assure that newly elected city leaders’ call to public service doesn’t fall on deaf ears.
More than 250 first-time mayors and city councilmembers from across Georgia gathered in Athens Feb. 16–17 for the Newly Elected Officials Institute to study the basics of effective governance. Led by Institute of Government faculty and GMA instructors, new officeholders gain a practical understanding of municipal government operation and administration—critical knowledge to help them become more effective public servants.
Terry Crawford was a new city councilman in Ringgold when he attended the Newly Elected Officials Institute in 2008. A decade later, he still uses the principles he learned from that training.
“I came away with a good, strong understanding about how I can work best with the people I represent,” said Crawford, now Ringgold’s mayor pro tem. “I learned immediately that you have to work together to be effective. Working as a team, we have done a tremendous amount. We worked together to get a new pedestrian bridge over U.S. Highway 411, for example.”
In 1990, the Georgia General Assembly required new city officials to get basic training in municipal government operations. Lawmakers directed the Institute of Government and GMA to provide training in finance, budgeting and other key topics to fulfill the six-hour training minimum set by law.
Knowledgeable municipal leaders benefit millions of Georgians whose health, homes and jobs depend on reliable public services, according to Institute of Government Director Laura Meadows. “This practical training, specifically designed for newly elected officials, helps municipal leaders understand and effectively address the kinds of issues they face every day,” Meadows said.
The curriculum provides an important bridge between campaigning and becoming an effective public servant, according to GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson. “It helps newly elected officials understand the nuts and bolts of local government, its complexities and the need for collaboration and teamwork,” Hanson said.
Jessica Payton, who just joined the Cedartown City Commission, said the Newly Elected Officials Institute improved her understanding of how municipal governments operate. “As a non-politician, I understand that most people don't know how a smaller city government works. I would hope that I am able to bring some of that to the commission, just helping people understand,” she said.