Lifelong Learning Academy

Friday, April 29th

Addressing Complex Community Issues

Complex community issues share a number of characteristics. Here are three. First, they tear at the social, cultural, and economic fabric of a community. Second, they exceed the capacity of any single organization or institution to impact them in a meaningful way. And third, they are seldom “solvable” in any permanent sense. Poverty, hunger, violence, homelessness, and dealing with difference are just a few examples. While county government cannot “solve" these issues alone, county leaders can play an essential leadership role in bringing together, engaging, and mobilizing the people, organizations, and resources needed to address complex community issues.

Citizen Public Safety Initiatives

The value of citizen involvement in public safety is enormous. Informed and engaged citizens not only help solve community public safely problems, but they can advocate for much needed funding in the broad area of public safety. The specialty course Citizen Public Safety Initiatives will teach you how to determine the benefits of public safety plans, how to get citizens to help you fulfill your county’s public safety goals, and the real costs of executing public safety initiatives versus not executing them. Class discussion and guest speakers also will explore how public safety relates to transparency in government and to other areas such as transportation.

Civic Engagement

As an elected official, you understand that citizen engagement plays an important role in creating good government. You also realize that it is a difficult task to recruit citizens to serve on boards, authorities, or committees. In the specialty course Civic Engagement, you will learn how to encourage constituents to share their insights, ideas, and suggestions and to become engaged in local problem solving and the process of governance. Class activities, discussions, and presentations will consider levels of citizen participation, explore the theory of civic engagement, examine ways to structure and facilitate public meetings, and define the benefits of civic engagement to politicians, citizens, and their communities.

County Retirement Programs: What They Mean to Your Employees and Your Budget

Employee retirement represents a significant portion of a county’s budget. Retirement plans are essentially employee contracts that exist in specific economic, social, political, moral, and ethical contexts. While Commissioners make retirement policy decisions infrequently, these decisions have long-term implications that are especially significant during periods of changing economic conditions. Part of the County Operations and Management specialty track, County Retirement Plans: What They Mean to Your Employees and Your Budget will help county commissioners better understand their roles, responsibilities, and options when setting retirement policy.

Developing Financial Policies

This specialty track course is designed to guide commissioners through the process of developing sound financial policies for their counties. The elements of effective financial planning will be explored as well as guidelines for successful implementation. During this course five financial policy categories will be explored: Cash and Investments; Capital Planning and Debt; Fund Balance; Budget-Revenues; and Purchasing-Expenditures. Commissioners will practice evaluating policies and their purposes to determine intended and unintended consequences for their community.


Public servants are required to make decisions that will affect fellow citizens in a variety of ways. As trustees of the people, elected officials should make every effort to create an atmosphere of public trust. Because public policy decisions may require thinking and acting differently from private/personal decisions, it is important that county commissioners understand and examine their legal, moral, and ethical public sector obligations. This core course will describe key principles of public sector ethics and will examine the range of consequences for public servants when ethical decision-making is in question including public perception/appearance, liability, and impropriety.

Global Commerce and Georgia’s Targeted Industries

The world is shrinking! Georgia counties can no longer live and work independently in their own little piece of the world in today’s global economy. In this specialty course, Global Commerce and Georgia’s Targeted Industries, participants will consider what global commerce is and how it affects counties and the state, the roles of commissioners and resources available to them in developing strategies to advance their counties, and how local economic development efforts relate to- and connect with global commerce. Through class discussions, case studies, and presentations, participants will review global economic trends, imports and exports, strategic industries, and global activity already underway in Georgia.

Management and Human Resources Responsibilities

This advanced course examines the roles and responsibilities of the County Commissioner necessary to be an effective steward of the single largest portion of their organization’s operating budget…human resources. Recruiting and retaining talented employees is essential to the effective delivery of government services. In light of this, this course explores the County Commissioner’s policy-making role and its contribution to making their organization an employer of choice, and not an employer of last resort.

Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System: Costs and Implications

Mental health issues affect every demographic within the state and nearly every aspect of county government. Every Georgia community has a stake in this topic. As community leaders and decision-makers, a deeper understanding of the problem and the intersection of mental health issues with many of the services delivered by county governments is fundamental to sound public policy deliberations and decisions. As commissioners, you lead from positions of broad potential influence and good stewardship demands that you have the knowledge and information needed to understand the interconnectivity, implications and costs associated with mental health and the criminal justice system. During this six hour session, participants will learn to better identify and assess mental health challenges in their communities and share best practices.

Working with School Boards, Authorities and Other Partners

There are legal, structural and systematic hurdles that hinder local public multi‐and single‐ purpose governments from working together. Educating Georgia leaders in the benefits of working together and the consequences of not doing so can help county commissioners create opportunities to improve their own organizations and communities through new partnerships and new approaches to leadership. Recognizing strategies to cut across agency and governmental boundaries to work collaboratively fosters increased efficiency, effectiveness and greater trust. Upon completion of the class, participants will recognize: why working with school boards, authorities and other partners is important; why collaboration is a useful tool for working with other organizations; the steps in the collaborative process; policy areas that have strong overlapping interests; state constitution and statutes that distinguish what local governments and school systems can and cannot do; and, how the use of case studies where collaboration has occurred can serve as models for implementation in other communities.

Monday, May 2nd

Family and Children Service’s

Children are at the core of the community and the community is both a system and a component of a larger societal system. As a county commissioner, it is important to know what organizations in the county (public, private and volunteer) provide family and children’s services, what they do, and how they are related. In addition to commission roles, key players and available resources, the inter-connective nature of this topic and its relationship to community vibrancy (both economic and social) will be emphasized. During this six hour session, participants will learn to better identify and assess potential efficiencies as well as craft policies and implement practices that leverage that potential.

Fire, EMS and 911

Providing safe and effective services for fire, emergency management services, and 911 communications is the one responsibility of a county commission that touches citizens when they are at their most vulnerable. While it is important to focus on the delivery of these services, the commission must also focus on how the services are funded, staffed, maintained, and evaluated. There must be a balance between providing citizen safety and administration of these services based on legal requirements and industry standards such as ISO ratings. Participants in this Public Safety specialty track course will be able to understand the full range of responsibilities required to develop policies for expenses, revenues, human resources, and the delivery of services. In addition, participants will explore how their county can work with other entities to develop a regional approach to provide emergency services through intergovernmental agreements or similar arrangements. The course will also offer an in-depth examination of the various delivery service models available for each of the areas-Fire, EMS, and 911 Communications.

Leadership Team Building

Governing counties requires elected officials and appointed professionals to work together to address problems and challenges, identify strategies and solutions, and plan and implement actions. Together, boards of commissioners and senior county staff comprise a county’s “leadership team,” the group of individuals who collectively are responsible for governing, managing, and administering county government, programs, and services. Participants will explore how and why counties benefit from strong leadership teams, what being a leadership team means, and tips, behaviors, and best practices for strengthening leadership teams.

Public Safety and Public Health

This course focuses on the responsibilities your county has in the area of public safety and public health and the impact these responsibilities have on your county and its budget. Public health services that are required of counties are outlined, and ways of addressing behavioral health issues and keeping families healthy are examined. Public safety issues to be discussed include law enforcement, medical costs for jail inmates, emergency medical services, fire services, and 911. The course also explores the how these two issues are connected and how dealing with them effectively can lead to strong communities.

Public Works and Transportation

Public works and transportation affect water supply, safety, services, quality of life, communications, health, economic development, and citizen mobility. Citizen concerns often involve roads and other public works issues. Because people tend to see public works and transportation as public goods, they have become a major funding responsibility and expenditure for counties, much bigger than simply a line-item in the budget. This makes public works and transportation a primary responsibility of county government and a primary concern of boards of commissioners. The specialty course Public Works and Transportation explores the public and private purposes of transportation and utilities, their roles in economic development and emergency preparedness, capital projects and infrastructure investment, utilities, and best practices for financing, building, and maintaining public works.

Revenue and Tax Policy

Tax decisions are among the biggest decisions commissioners will make. Revenue and Tax Policy, a specialty track course, will expose county commissioners to the concepts and practice of evaluating and developing revenue and tax policy particularly as they relate to critical areas such as land use, service delivery, and the budget. Small group activities will be used to focus on the topics of taxation, revenue, decision making, tax choices, and tax impacts. Participants will also learn about available resources and strategies for gaining public support and communicating tax policy and priorities to the community. It is strongly recommended that participants will have taken the core course Property Appraisal and Taxation before enrolling in this one.

Using Incentives for Economic Development

Economic development is important to your county whatever its size and whether it is primarily urban, rural, or suburban. At some point, most counties face policy decisions regarding the provision of incentives for economic development. This specialty track course will enhance commissioners’ understanding of incentive deals including how to structure a tax incentives package as well as the financial, policy and strategic implications. Small group activities, class discussions, and case studies will help you to foster greater community readiness and more effectively participate in incentive and other financing discussions with economic development professionals.

County Clerks’ Education Classes

Friday, April 29th

Tax Revenue 202

As part of a series of elective courses to further educate City/County Clerks in financial management responsibilities, this course provides an instructional case study to teach the facets of SPLOST / LOST / MOST guidelines. After reviewing these revenue sources, Clerks will engage in a group activity case study exploring real situations which might incorporate them into government initiatives.

Intergovernmental Agreements

Coordination and collaboration across government entities is key to overarching governmental functioning within states. Georgia Clerks representing a wide range of geographies and constituencies should learn the nature of intergovernmental agreements and their tax implications in order to help facilitate these processes. This advanced course covers the nature of intergovernmental agreements, the types of agreements that may take place, their associated policies, and tax implications.

Saturday, April 30th

Government 101

In their critical supporting role to City Councils and County Commissions, Clerks must have a strong knowledge of basic government services, operations, and regulations. In Georgia, local government takes varying forms and the services offered to citizens may also vary. In this required course, Clerks will learn the key aspects of how governments function and how different government personnel work together with other organizations to fulfill missions and achieve effective operations.

The Millage Rate Process

The Georgia Millage Rate process is a complex and sometimes confusing topic, but is nevertheless a process of utmost importance to local government citizens and property owners. City/county Clerks must be highly educated on the Millage Rate as part of their financial management skills set. This required course serves as an exhaustive look into property taxation by any specific jurisdiction, including transparency with the general public about this process, the actual tax collection procedures, and tips to reading and understanding a real tax bill.