Originally appeared in the May 2008 edition of Georgia's Cities.
State law mandates that city officials in various elected and appointed positions are required to attend and complete training courses pertaining to the basic performance of their duties. Beyond mandatory training, there are numerous courses available to city officials who want to learn more about local government finance, economic development, ethics and other areas of personal and professional development. City officials should be aware of the training requirement pertaining to their positions, as well as other opportunities that are available to them.
What training is required for newly elected officials?
The 1990 Georgia General Assembly passed legislation requiring city officials elected after July 1, 1991, to complete training on matters pertaining to the administration and operations of municipal governments. GMA, working with the University of Georgia’ s Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG), conducts the Newly Elected Officials Institute, which is designed to provide an orientation to municipal government in Georgia. Topics include the role of the mayor and council; the legal, ethical and financial aspects of city government; and intergovernmental relations and working together within the city council. Complete information about newly elected training courses can be found on the GMA website at http://www.gmanet.com/Training.aspx.
As a newly elected official, how long after I take office do I have to complete the newly elected training course?
This course must be taken within the first 12 months of taking office. Typically the course is offered in February and/or March of each year, depending on the number of newly elected officials. If an elected official has served before and has been reelected, he or she must take the Newly Elected Officials Institute again if they have been out of office for more than four years. Even though officials with prior service experience are familiar with what the job entails, the Newly Elected Officials Institute is updated each year to reflect new laws, policies and procedures that elected officials need to be aware of.
What is the Municipal Training Institute for Elected Officials?
GMA offers the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute for Elected Officials, which is a series of training programs for mayors and council members to enhance their knowledge and skills. Courses are offered in conjunction with GMA meetings as well as in “stand-alone” offerings throughout the year. The courses are voluntary and offer elected officials the opportunity to obtain training beyond what is required by state law. By completing this additional training, elected officials can earn a Certificate of Recognition, Certificate of Achievement or a Certificate of Excellence.
Certificate of Recognition
To obtain a Certificate of Recognition, a mayor or council member who began in the Institute prior to July 1, 1991 must complete at least 42 units of training from the courses offered through the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute for Elected Officials. Those who began after July 1, 1991 must complete at least 42 units including three of the eight required courses in addition to the state mandated Newly Elected Officials Institute. A maximum of six units of credit is given for participation in each course.
Certificate of Achievement
Elected officials who complete 30 additional units of training after receiving the Certificate of Recognition are awarded the Certificate of Achievement. This certificate represents 72 units of voluntary training.
Certificate of Excellence
Elected officials who complete 48 additional units of training after receiving the Certificate of Achievement are awarded the Certificate of Excellence. To receive the Certificate of Excellence, elected officials must participate in the Knox Leadership Institute for Municipal Elected Officials. The Certificate of Excellence represents a minimum of 120 units of voluntary training.
I am working on my Certificate of Recognition and I would like to confirm the number of hours I have completed. How do I get a copy of my transcript?
GMA sends transcripts to all city halls in the fall of each year. City officials may request a transcript at any time during the year, or they may access their transcript on the GMA website. GMA assigns each newly elected official a user name and password shortly after they are elected. You may use that user name and password to go on-line and print your transcript at any time. If you do not have your user name and password, you may call Irish Thomas at GMA at 404-688-0472 for assistance with setting up a new user name and password.
I have more than 42 hours of training, yet I have never received my Certificate of Recognition. Why?
To receive the Certificate of Recognition, you must take 42 hours of training, which includes the Newly Elected Officials Institute and at least three courses from the required list of courses. If you did not take the Newly Elected Officials Institute or have not had three of the courses listed above, you are not yet eligible.
All training courses provide six hours of credit and are six hours long. The Robert E. Knox, Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute is three days long, but still only provides six hours of credit. Why?
The Municipal Training Board has considered this issue on many occasions. The purpose of the training program is to provide well-rounded knowledge to elected officials. Therefore, they do not want to give more than six hours of credit for any one topic. After attending the Institute, most attendees feel that the privilege of attending (class size is limited to 40 and is only offered twice per year) is worth the extra time required.
I have taken Economic Development on two different occasions, but credit is only showing on my transcript for one time. Why is my second attendance not reflected?
You may only receive credit for taking a course one time. This even applies to the Newly Elected Officials Institute should you be required to take it a second time.
May I receive credit for a course that I have taken outside the GMA program?
No, only courses listed in the official Training Brochure and Schedule will be credited by the University of Georgia. From time to time, a “critical issues” course will be approved for credit and offered by another entity. The promotional information you receive for the course will clearly state that “credit will be given.” If you are not certain, please contact the Carl Vinson Institute of Government or GMA before taking the course.
Can municipal appointed staff attain the Municipal Training Certificates?
Only elected officials are eligible for Municipal Training Institute certificates. Municipal staff may register for Municipal Training Institute courses, although since space is limited, preference is given to elected officials. Numerous training opportunities for municipal staff are available through the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government. More information can be found on the CVIOG website.
Does the Municipal Training Institute offer any online courses?
Presently, the only online course offering is Human Resources. Unlike in a face-to-face class, city officials can complete this web-based course at their own pace, on their own schedule, within a 30-day period. Successful completion of this online credit offering earns participants the same credits that they would receive for attending a traditional six-hour Human Resources I workshop.
The course I signed up for is full; is there a wait list or should I take another course?
Most classes are limited to 60 participants. GMA usually accepts 66 registrations in anticipation of cancellations and no-shows, therefore a waitlist is not usually kept. If your class is full, the best option is to select another course.
How can I be sure to get into the class I need?
At the first session of Newly Elected Training in 2008, approximately 500 city officials were registered. As a result of the state mandate to take training, and the fact that there is a limited amount of space available in each class, most training courses do fill up quickly. The best way to be sure you get into the class you need is to register as soon as you get your registration materials in the mail.
What are the requirements for serving on the Municipal Training Board?
The Municipal Training Board has one representative from each of the GMA Districts. These representatives serve a four-year term. To be considered for the position, you must have at least 72 hours of training. You may notify your current district representative, or staff from GMA or the Carl Vinson Institute of your interest.
In addition to newly elected officials, what other municipal staff must obtain training to fulfill the requirements for their positions?
Various municipal employees are required by state law to obtain customized training to help them perform basic job functions and maintain certifications. Examples of municipal appointed officials for whom training is a requirement include police officers and communications officers; firefighters; landfill operators; paramedics; water distribution and wastewater system operators and managers; municipal court judges, and city clerks.
Where can I find more information about GMA’s Municipal Training Institute and other training opportunities?
For more information and questions about the training courses that are offered by GMA, please contact Alan Dickerson
, GMA’s Director of Training & Professional Development at (678) 686-6213.