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From Campaigning to Governing

Mar 06, 2018 11:10AM ● Published by Emily Stevenson

By Reba Hull Campbell
Deputy Executive Director, Municipal Association of SC

Once elections are over, the hard work of governing begins. Plus, when someone moves from the role of private citizen to candidate to elected official, there are different challenges to consider.

For anyone elected to serve as a mayor or member of a city council in South Carolina, the Municipal Association of South Carolina offers a variety of training opportunities that give local elected leaders the tools they need to make a seamless transition from candidate to elected official. The Municipal Elected Officials Institute is a multi-faceted training program designed specifically for mayors and councilmembers. The Advanced Institute is available to graduates who are seeking additional training.

This year, the Municipal Elected Officials Institute is celebrating 30 years of graduates. More than 1,600 local officials have completed the program.

“People who run for elected office have a real passion and love for their communities,” says Cayce Mayor Elise Partin, president of the Municipal Association. “But when campaigning turns to governing, it’s kind of like starting a new job. Most of us come to our roles in municipal service from professions and walks of life that might not have trained us on the mechanics of local government. And that’s great, because diversity of experiences makes us better leaders, but we need to be prepared to lead our cities and towns, too.”

Immediately upon election, mayors and councilmembers can enroll in a free online course that covers five basics of governing: effective leadership, the fundamentals of city services and forms of government, basic budget requirements, effective meeting and agenda procedures, and the Freedom of Information Act and Ethics Act. This course is available on-demand through the Municipal Association’s website.

Once sworn into office, mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute. The entire curriculum of 14 classes can be completed in one year through a combination of two day-long sessions and five streamed or online classes. The Institute uses local government experts, attorneys, business leaders, higher education instructors, and municipal government and Municipal Association staff to teach the sessions.

At the day-long sessions offered each February, topics include conducting public meetings, ethics and public accountability, planning and zoning, and business license administration.

The classes streamed to the councils of governments give local leaders a chance to get training three times a year without having to travel to Columbia. Plus they get the added advantage of networking and brainstorming time with peers in their region.  To meet the goal of more flexibility in training, the online version of these classes are offered on-demand through the Municipal Association’s website.

During these streamed and online sessions, elected officials learn from leaders in both the private and public sectors about the importance of partnerships in economic development. They hear from staff with the Municipal Association and the SC Press Association about complying with the Freedom of Information Act. They learn how the three forms of government affect how a city is run and the mechanics and legalities of the municipal budget.

For graduates of the Municipal Elected Officials Institute, the Advanced Municipal Elected Officials Institute is available to give local officials more in-depth training on certain topics. Advanced Institute participants can choose between two advanced courses offered each winter and fall with the requirement of taking four of the six available classes to graduate. Launched in 2016, the Advanced Institute already has more than 150 graduates.

“We know that municipal elected officials have many responsibilities and time commitments, so the time dedicated to training must be well spent,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. “We have tried to design a flexible training program that meets both the goals of gaining technical knowledge and sharing best practices with their peers in other cities.”

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