Elective Courses

Building a Hometown Connection: GMA Lobbying 101 (six hour course)
This course provides an overview of the state legislative process and helps city officials understand how they can be effective advocates of issues important to their community and cities throughout the state. Participants receive ideas for establishing productive year-round relationships with members of the General Assembly as well as practical lobbying tips they can use during the legislative session. The course also includes a hands-on exercise using real-life legislative scenarios.

Business Diplomacy and Protocol (six hour course)
This course exposes city officials to the fundamental elements of professional business etiquette and protocol. As part of the course, participants will be taught how to make an entrance, work a room, handle introductions, remember names, and treat business prospects. Participants will also receive instruction on proper seating and dining protocol.


Civics for Local Government (three hour course)

This course provides important information on the proper protocol in the display of the American flag and other flags in government buildings; appropriate recognition of the American flag when entering a room; and the proper programming of the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem into city-sponsored events and other civic programs. The course also discusses the basic protocol for welcoming foreign visitors and other dignitaries. The class includes activities to make the learning meaningful for participants. Knowing what to do, why, and First Amendment implications is important to our cities and our citizens.


Community and Media Relations (six hour course)
This course examines the importance of building effective working relationships with the media and the role the media plays in informing the public and shaping their opinion of municipal governments. Advice for repairing poor relationships is provided, along with insights on when and how to speak with reporters, especially during times of crisis.

Conflict Resolution (six hour course)
This course explores strategies and techniques for successfully resolving conflict through negotiation and mediation. Emphasis is placed on identifying the sources of conflict and the personality styles of the parties involved.

Creating A Downtown Renaissance: Advanced DDA Training (six hour course)
This course builds on the Basic Downtown Development Authority training course with an emphasis on applying the tools. The importance of developing a downtown vision and a plan are discussed. Attendees will also hear the basics of navigating Business Improvement Districts, Community Improvement Districts, Tax Allocation Districts, Historic Preservation Tax Credits, the Redevelopment Powers Act and Urban Redevelopment Law. Best practice examples of utilizing federal, state and local partnerships, programs and incentives are shared. Class participants are given an opportunity to immediately apply the tools and programs highlighted in the courses through a case study exercise. Basic Downtown Development Authority training is a pre-requisite.

Changing Demographics and Best Practices (three hour course)

Georgia’s demographics are constantly shifting, impacting cities. Georgia’s population is getting older and increasingly representing the cultures of many nationalities and many interests. This course examines the cultural and aging trends in Georgia and explores the implications of these changing demographics for cities, both in terms of challenges and opportunities. Time is allocated for representatives from communities that have been significantly impacted by these trends to share their insights and suggestions.


Critical Issues Courses (three and six hour courses)
On occasion, GMA offers special one-time workshops and training events that address an important municipal issue or concern. If designated as a "Critical Issues Course" by GMA, municipal elected officials receive training credit for completing the course.

Downtown Development Authority Basic Training (eight hour course – six hour credit)
This course is primarily directed at those who serve on Downtown Development Authorities, but is open to all city officials. Topics include: management of downtown as a valuable resource; the role of the authority, board members, and staff; DDA laws; and the day-to-day operations of a Downtown Development Authority.

Economics of Education (three hour course)

This course provides specific and tangible evidence that education is vitally important to a community's prosperity. The class reinforces the critical role of businesses and the entire community in building a strong workforce and positive economic climate through improved education. Data will be presented indicating where Georgia stands in its ability to raise the bar on student achievement. Additionally, the course will present the correlation between a quality education and a community’s ability to attract good-paying jobs and enhance its quality of life. Participants will also learn where to find school performance indicators for their community.

Effective Practices for Municipal Operations 101 (three hour course)

This course targets municipal elected officials from small communities and newly elected officials and exposes them to various fundamental principles for having a professionally managed city. The course will examine basic management strategies, analysis tools, and processes needed to create an organizational climate of excellence for the effective delivery of municipal services. In addition, the course will identify emerging issues and other challenges that can impede effective municipal operations.


Environmental Sustainability (six hour course)
This course explores the environmental issues that citizens and municipal officials of Georgia currently face, such as water quality and quantity, energy conservation, air quality and the handling of solid and hazardous waste. Participants hear from municipal officials what some cities are doing to address these environmental challenges, how to get citizens engaged, and how to communicate and promote the environmental message.

Fire and Emergency Medical Services (six hour course)
This course exposes city officials to some of the basic concepts involved in providing municipal fire suppression, fire prevention, and emergency medical services. In addition to reviewing applicable laws and codes, the course covers emerging issues and new technologies.

Heart & Soul of Georgia Mobile Workshop (multi-day mobile course – six hour credit)
This two-day mobile workshop targets municipal officials that are interested in downtown revitalization and adjoining neighborhood redevelopment. Workshop participants are provided opportunities to view actual plans and projects with officials from the host cities discussing their downtown and neighborhood strategies, their success stories, and their lessons learned. The workshop includes formal presentations and tours of downtown areas and adjoining neighborhoods.


Housing Solutions for Cities - Mobile Workshop (six hour course)
This course provides officials with information about housing needs and issues, as well as programs and resources available to assist communities in the area of housing. The class format is a combination of classroom and mobile workshop. The mobile workshop highlights one or more successful local housing development(s) and provides participants the opportunity to see first-hand how some of the resources and programs described during the classroom session have been utilized.

Human Resources II (six hour course)
This course focuses on areas of human resource management such as performance appraisal systems; recruiting, interviewing, hiring and retaining staff; employee benefits; and employee training. The course builds on information provided in Human Resources I, but it is not a prerequisite for Human Resources II.

Law Enforcement Services: Trends and Best Practices (six hour course)
This course familiarizes municipal officials with the basic concepts of law enforcement. In addition to reviewing applicable laws, funding mechanisms and staffing models, the course addresses emerging public safety issues, trends and innovations.


Local Government Debt Methods 101 (three hour course)

This course targets municipal elected officials and staff and exposes them to various fundamental methods of issuing debt in Georgia. The course examines the history of public debt in Georgia, basic public finance principles, legal requirements and prohibitions, and various financing methods needed to effectively budget for capital improvement projects.

Making Citizen Engagement Work in Our Communities (six hour course)
This course explores the importance of getting citizens engaged in the process of governance. The course exposes officials to the concept of deliberative forums, a method of citizen engagement that brings diverse community interests together to explore policy options and share insights, ideas, and suggestions in a structured setting. Participants will receive tips, tools, and other resources for recruiting citizens, creating productive conversations, and encouraging citizens to be involved in local problem solving.

Managing Growth: Economic and Natural Resource Issues (six hour course)
This course shows city leaders how they can exert meaningful control over how their community grows. Topics include economic and ecological considerations, protecting water quality, regulatory initiatives, and regionalization. Promoting infill development and redevelopment, preserving land, and capturing private investment are also covered.

Managing Your City’s Risk -formerly Risk Management and Insurance (three hour course)
Is your city at risk? This course focuses on the importance of loss control and safety training as a way of reducing insurance claims. The class includes a general introduction of risk management and insurance. Alternative ways to cover municipal risks are also discussed.

Mobile Workshops (three hour and six hour courses)
Mobile workshops give participants an opportunity to see first-hand how a community has addressed an issue, concern or opportunity. If designated as a "Mobile Workshop" by GMA, municipal elected officials receive training credit for completing the course.

Money, Money, Money … Money!: Funding City Projects and Programs Through Grants and Loans (six hour course)
With limited ability to generate increased revenues from taxes and user fees, city officials often seek grant and low-interest loan opportunities to help address a range of capital improvement and operational needs. This course details some of the state, federal and foundation funding sources available to municipalities in Georgia. Additionally, the course provides an introduction to some reporting and administrative responsibilities the city may have once funding has been awarded.

Multi-day Economic Development Course (multi-day course – twelve hour credit)
This course is conducted by the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. Participants must be nominated and attend four days of training over a four-month period. Team projects are required. For information on this course, please contact the Department of Community Affairs. Participants receive twelve units of credit through the Municipal Training Institute for successfully completing this course.

Municipal Courts (three hour course)

This course provides an orientation on the basic operation of municipal courts with respect to the adjudication and enforcement of traffic offenses, certain misdemeanors, and municipal ordinance violations.

Municipal Electric Systems 101 (three hour course)

This course is open only to officials from the 52 Georgia cities that own and operate public power systems. Electric utilities are multi-million dollar enterprises, and it is essential that policymakers and key staff have a strong understanding of all aspects of the service - including generation, transmission and distribution - as well as sound financial and management practices. In addition to providing a basic overview of municipal electric system operations, the course is designed to help attendees understand the role of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Electric Cities of Georgia and the services and resources each organization provides to participating systems.


Municipal Finance II (six hour course)
This course emphasizes the importance of establishing sound financial policies and provides participants with a better understanding of how to read and understand audited city financial statements, assess the effectiveness of internal accounting controls, and manage a city's cash and investments. This course may be taken before or after Municipal Finance I, which is a required course.


Municipal Gas Systems 101 (three hour course)

This course is open only to officials from the 84 Georgia cities that own and operate a municipal gas system. In addition to providing a basic overview of municipal gas system operations, the course is designed to help attendees understand the role of the GMA Gas Section and Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and the services and resources provided to participating systems. The course also informs and educates municipal officials on the continued safe and efficient operation of the natural gas system. It is important that key officials become aware of State and Federal Regulations and the issues of an aging infrastructure.

Public Presentations and Meet the Media (six hour course)
This course teaches municipal officials how to be more effective when speaking to groups or addressing the media. Techniques for developing presentation content and delivery, as well as tips for more effectively dealing with the media, are shared. As part of the course, participants make a brief presentation to their fellow classmates.


Recreation and Parks – Building Communities (three hour course)
Recreation and park programs and facilities play an important role in creating a high quality of life for communities. They create public value by offering recreational activities, green-space for relaxation and opportunities for improving the health of residents. However, recreation and park programs are sometimes seen as amenities that cities cannot afford. This session explores the role of recreation and parks in building community and economic development, and options for funding.


Regional Approaches to Cooperation (six hour course)

Municipal governments face many challenges today in delivering services to their citizens with resources that continue to diminish. These challenges have provided new opportunities for cities to work across jurisdictional boundaries to effectively support community and economic development efforts, as well as many other local projects and programs. This cooperation can be accomplished through informal and formal agreements, and partnerships may extend to public, non-profit and private sector entities. This course examines the concept of regional cooperation, tools for implementation, opportunities to explore best practices around the state, and strategies for establishing successful regional partnerships.  


Retreats provide an opportunity for city councils to come together, apart from the regular meetings, to prepare for the future. The focus may be on teamwork, goal setting, or other city concerns. Each retreat is tailored to meet the individual city's needs. Credit is given for city council retreats facilitated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Some cities have an annual retreat, but credit toward the Municipal Training Institute certificate program is given for a maximum of two retreats.

Revitalizing Neighborhoods - Tools for Local Officials (six hour course)
This course provides an overview of the tools and resources available to cities interested in effectively responding to neighborhood problems such as dilapidated and unsafe structures, unsightly property, junk automobiles, weeds, trash and other nuisances. Topics include Georgia's Urban Redevelopment law, code enforcement and land bank authorities.


Robert E. Knox, Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute (multi-day course – six hour credit)
This course is an intensive multi-day event that focuses on helping city officials enhance and sharpen their leadership skills. Enrollment is limited so that participants can have a full exchange of ideas with instructors and other municipal officials. Completion of the Municipal Leadership Institute is required for municipal elected officials to receive a Certificate of Excellence and Certificate of Distinction.


Social Media 101 (three hour course)
Technology impacts personal lives, work and local government. This course examines and defines what social media means, how social media can be used by local government, including the risks and benefits of such usage. The legal basis for governmental use of social media is reviewed. Sample social media policies are examined and provided. Current law on employer and employee use of social media is explored. Demonstrations on making social media user friendly for both large and small governments are provided. Finally, the impact of records retention, open meetings and open records law are discussed if social media becomes a regular part of the local government’s operations.


Strengthening Your Community by Strengthening Your Children and Families (three hour course)
This course examines how the well-being of children and families affects the success of community and economic development. The course reviews trends in Georgia and identifies specific strategies that officials can implement in their own communities. "Family Connections" and other state-run programs aimed at reducing the number of at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents are addressed. Problem issues such as teen pregnancies, truancy and teen drug and alcohol use are also discussed.

Technology Solutions for Cities (six hour course)
Municipalities must look to new and emerging technologies as one of the primary ways of becoming more efficient and effective. The course highlights some of the interesting and creative uses of technology that have enabled a number of Georgia’s cities to improve service delivery and responsiveness, as well as make their operations more transparent to the public. The costs and challenges of implementing these technological solutions are examined. Participants also learn about new technologies to anticipate in the future and how they may be applicable to municipal operations.

Water Management - An Introduction for Local Governments (six hour course)
In spite of recent developments in water resource planning, conservation, and supply enhancement, water supply will continue to be a major issue facing all levels of government in Georgia. This course introduces city officials to the most important aspects of water management from withdrawals at the source to discharge from the local sewage treatment plant. The course covers the basic technical and regulatory aspects of water management, including stormwater management, withdrawals, reservoir operations, managing in-stream flows, treatment standards, and the regulatory framework of water management in Georgia.