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Academy for Excellence in Local Governance

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Welcome to the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance, a professional development program.

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Academy Curriculum

Fellows in the municipal track complete nine core classes, plus complete five elective classes of their choice.

Basics of Risk Management
One of the main responsibilities of local governments is to protect its residents from risk to themselves and their property. Risk may result from a number of sources, including fire, crime, automobile accidents, harm to the infrastructure, or as a result of waste disposal. This class is designed to sharpen the awareness of officials that local government activities are subject to risks that may result in significant loss. Through learning about steps to reduce and control loss exposure and tools for identifying hazards, government officials can learn how to avoid the consequences of taking unnecessary risk.

Conducting Effective Meetings
Conducting public business requires managing the issues that come before a public body. Building an agenda, promoting useful discussion, and providing a structure for decision-making are key goals for an effective meeting and for effective public officials. The instructor also covers the proper use of organized rules of order---known as parliamentary procedure---which allow all voices to be heard, but with debate that remains focused and civil.

Consensus and Team Building
This class introduces municipal leaders to the basic skills needed to successfully resolve conflict and build consensus within a local government setting. Particular emphasis is placed on developing ways to improve the design of public processes to enhance community involvement and satisfaction. This class is highly interactive and involves role play and small group work built around hypothetical situations that will seem familiar to anyone who has served as a local government official.

Employment Issues
This class provides an overview of preferred employment practices and of the legal restrictions involved in hiring, firing, promoting, and disciplining employees. The instructor addresses how positions should be advertised and interviews conducted. Also included are risk management techniques concerning proper supervision of employees.

Ethics
Officials should be knowledgeable of their public ethics ordinance, as generally required by state law. Many officials fill out the necessary forms and assume that they have complied with the law. But are their day-to-day actions living up to the intent of the law? There is often a fine line between legal and ethical behavior, and this class illustrates the differences through real-life scenarios and small group discussions.

Municipal Budgeting
This class provides an overview of municipal budgeting, including: the legal, policy, and procedural framework of municipal budgets; ways in which the budget is a tool for resource allocation and financial management; steps in the budget process; and key issues involved in budget preparation, adoption, and implementation. Budget organization and formats, revenue sources, and revenue expenditure forecasting are also covered.

Open Meetings
This class provides an overview of Maryland's Open Meetings Law, which guides public officials in the requirements for providing public notice of decision-making functions and for closing meetings when appropriate. A knowledgeable expert focuses on the law's application to municipalities, including some of the cases and complaints that have come before the Compliance Board.

Public Information Act
What kind of information should be released to the public upon request? Many difficulties can be avoided by knowing the answer. This class helps officials and staff at all levels who must deal with the public by educating them about the state law governing the handling of public records. The class includes small roundtable discussions using real-life scenarios to further illustrate appropriate responses to requests from the public or the press.

Structure of Municipal Government
This class addresses the various forms of municipal government practiced in Maryland and relates the structures to municipal government operations, including the relationship between the legislative and administrative functions. The class also covers municipal charters and the powers and limitations of municipalities.

Fellows in the county track complete eight core classes, plus six elective classes of their choice.

Basics of Risk Management
One of the main responsibilities of local governments is to protect its residents from risk to themselves and their property. Risk may result from a number of sources, including fire, crime, automobile accidents, harm to the infrastructure, or as a result of waste disposal. This class is designed to sharpen the awareness of officials that local government activities are subject to risks that may result in significant loss. Through learning about steps to reduce and control loss exposure and tools for identifying hazards, government officials can learn how to avoid the consequences of taking unnecessary risk.

Conducting Effective Meetings
Conducting public business requires managing the issues that come before a public body. Building an agenda, promoting useful discussion, and providing a structure for decision-making are key goals for an effective meeting and for effective public officials. The instructor also covers the proper use of organized rules of order---known as parliamentary procedure---which allow all voices to be heard but with debate that remains focused and civil.

Consensus and Team Building
Success in forging good government often comes from reaching compromise and consensus. Sharing ownership of ideas and programs with a broad group of stakeholders can facilitate stronger working relationships that have far-reaching positive effects. This hands-on class features interactive discussion of the essential elements of reaching consensus and team building.

County Financial Management
A challenge faced by new and veteran county officials is understanding and using the government budget process, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and other financial documents effectively as tools for setting priorities and managing the government while maintaining the fiscal integrity of the jurisdiction. Fiscal management can be infused with economic assumptions, technical jargon, and a process that seems foreign to the uninitiated. In this class, veteran public administrators discuss the budget process and financial reporting, as well as giving practical tips for county officials.

Employment Issues
Building and managing an effective workforce is critical to effective governance. At the same time, government employers face widespread legal restrictions in hiring, firing, promoting, and disciplining employees. The many facets of public employment and the issues often raised by county government officials are discussed.

Ethics
County elected officials face ethical dilemmas every day in an atmosphere where public and private actions are increasingly scrutinized. Many ethical challenges facing elected officials are matters of common sense, but more complicated situations may fall into "gray" areas. This class, led by a seasoned expert in government ethics, explores the law, applying it to hypothetical, but realistic situations.

Open Meetings
Maryland's Open Meetings Law guides public officials in the requirements for providing public notice of decision-making functions and for closing meetings when appropriate. The law has nuances for different forms of county governments, especially for county commissioners, who act in a dual legislative/executive role. The Open Meetings Law has been revised to better accommodate "administrative functions" and other procedures of governmental bodies. A knowledgeable expert focuses on the law's application to counties, including some of the cases and complaints that have come before the Compliance Board.

Public Information Act
What kind of information should be released to the public upon request? This class helps officials and staff at all levels who must deal with the public by informing them about the requirements of Maryland law on the handling of public records. This class includes real-life scenarios to further illustrate appropriate responses to request from the public or the press.

Elective classes are designed around broad categories of topics which can strengthen the ability of local officials to govern effectively. The topics relate to practical and administrative skill building, frameworks for understanding service delivery and planning concerns from a Maryland local government perspective, and legal and risk management issues in Maryland. The topics selected are timely and essential to changes and issues facing Maryland in any given year (i.e. cybersecurity, the opioid crisis, etc.). Elective classes provide local officials with the flexibility to pursue areas of interest beyond the core topics. The following factors are considered in selecting elective classes:

  • The topic fits within one of the broad elective categories in either the municipal or county track.
  • The class content is of significant value to local officials in carrying out their official duties.
  • The class is targeted to Maryland local officials.
  • The class does not duplicate other existing Academy classes.
  • The instructor has the experience and education to teach a quality class.

Click here for the 2019 - 2020 MML, MACo, and LGIT workshop schedule.

How to Enroll

Step 1
Download and Print the enrollment form

Step 2
Fill in the enrollment form and prepare the payment

Payment can be submitted in personal check, money order, or credit card payments. Make check or money orders out to: the University of Maryland. Please do not send cash in the mail.

The registration fee is $250. If you are a county elected official, MACo contributes $150 towards that fee.

Step 3
You can pay online at umd-aelg.fasttransact.net or mail payment to:

School of Public Policy
2101 Van Munching Hall (Attn: Aisha Washington)
College Park, MD 20742. 

For more information contact the Academy Registrar by telephone at 301-314-2641, fax at 301-405-3737 or email at awashin1@umd.edu. If you pay with a credit card, please include confirmation on your application and email your enrollment form to awashin1@umd.edu.

Registration Deadline
You can either enroll prior to taking classes, or within 30 days of taking an approved Academy class. However, you will receive credit for that class only after your Class Evaluation and Verification of Attendance form, your Academy enrollment form, and the payment have been received by Aisha Washington at UMD.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Academy is a voluntary program open to all local officials in Maryland. Newly elected local officials are especially encouraged to participate. Individuals may take individual classes of their choosing or enroll in the certification program. Participants who are enrolled in the certification program are called "Fellows.”

The Academy’s objectives are to:

  1. Increase understanding of local government and how it functions
  2. Promote high ethical standards in public service
  3. Provide an informational base for more informed policy making
  4. Develop the capacity of local officials to govern effectively and
  5. Recognize local officials for their educational efforts.

Upon enrollment in the Academy, local officials become Fellows of the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance. To receive a certificate of completion from the Academy, participants must complete specified core and elective classes in either the municipal or county track. Academy classes are taught by experienced officials, proven practitioners, and university faculty. In order to be considered an active Fellow in the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Current elected or appointed county or municipal official
  • Academy application fee paid-in-full
  • Completes the course with credit earned within a five-year window (with a 1-year extension granted for extenuating circumstances, by request and on a case-by case basis, with Academy Council approval)

Participants who complete a set of core and elective requirements, in either the Municipal or County Track, become “Fellows of the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance” and earn a corresponding Academy certificate. The Academy is designed as a two-year program. However, participants may complete the requirements sooner. Participants must complete the program in five years in order to receive the certificate for their participation in the program.

The Academy for Excellence in Local Governance was established in 1998 as a collaborative effort among the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service and Research, the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and the Maryland Associations of Counties (MACo). In 2013 the Maryland School of Public Policy entered the collaboration and has continued to partner with MML and MACo to provide ongoing support of the program. The Academy also enjoys the generous support of the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT). With the combined effort of these entities, the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance is thriving.

Our Partners

Maryland Municipal League(MML) is a voluntary, nonprofit, nonpartisan association controlled and maintained by city and town governments. MML works to strengthen and support municipal government through advocacy and the development of effective leadership. MML is the only statewide organization in Maryland composed solely of municipal officials and devoted to the promotion of all branches of municipal administration.

The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that serves Maryland’s counties by articulating the needs of local government to the Maryland General Assembly. The Association’s membership consists of county elected officials and representatives from Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. MACo’s members determine Association policy and positions on executive and legislative proposals through an elected Board of Directors and a volunteer Legislative Committee. Through MACo’s advocacy, training, education programs and annual conferences, members are provided with endless opportunities to improve their capacity to serve their residents. MACo is the only organization serving the needs of county elected officials and governments across the state.

The Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT) is a vital contributor to the Academy. LGIT provides sponsorship to the Academy in areas of academic development, new officials orientation and support for all Academy activities. LGIT is a proud sponsor of the Academy and we appreciate their partnership and thank them for their contributions to the development of state and local leaders.

Beyond the Academy

Those who have already completed the Academy curriculum can participate in a specialized program for Academy graduates. The program offers concentrations in four distinct topic areas:

  • Leadership
  • Budget and Finance
  • Structure of Government
  • Land Use

These follow-on classes provide additional opportunities for local government officials to expand their knowledge base with topical and relevant classes and to continue to develop a network of peers and colleagues.

Online Workshops

View discussions of relevant topics below from past workshops to enhance your Academy experience.