U of I Extension Aids County Government
December 22, 2005
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URBANA-An agreement formally launching an intensive training program for Illinois county board members and commissioners has been signed by University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners (IACBMC). Earlier this summer, U of I Extension and IACBMC offered the first Certified County Officials (CCO) program seminar.

"This agreement will formalize practices and processes of the voluntary certification program designed to provide county officials with intensive academic training that will assist them in meeting the requirements of their elected role," said Frank X. Heiligenstein, a member of the St. Clair County Board and president of IACBMC.

"Extension is pleased to assist local government officials in meeting the challenges of a complex, ever-changing environment," said Dennis Campion, associate dean for Extension and Outreach in the U of I College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "We've been providing training for local public officials since 1981 and are excited by the new opportunities offered by this agreement."

The agreement sets up a process for approval of the certification hours through a process by Extension and IACBMC officials. The signing occurred last month during the IACBMC's annual meeting in Peoria.

"The CCO program is open to all elected and appointed county officials in the state of Illinois and represents an educational response to the professional needs of county officials," said Kelly Murray, executive director of IACBMC. "Officials who complete 24 hours of training will attain Certified County Official status with credits awarded on an hour-by-hour basis for training attended."

Jeri Marxman, a U of I Extension public affairs and public policy specialist who directs Extension's Local Government Information and Education Network, said the training will involve the traditional tele-institutes that have been offered since 1981. Tele-institute sessions are offered over a state-wide audio-teleconferencing system, which is broadcast to all Illinois county Extension offices.

Additionally, the CCO program will feature components like this summer's Institute for Excellence in County Government, and workshops targeted to specific needs and issues.

"Across Illinois, county officials are faced with a daunting array of challenges ranging from finances to economic development to environmental concerns to animal control to the criminal justice system," explained Marxman. "It is vital that county officials have access to the best information available and experts in these and other areas."

Murray noted that U of I Extension has a long tradition of providing educational opportunities and a delivery system that reaches into each of the state's 102 counties.

"Education is an important component for improving the capacity local officials have in decision-making regarding policy and delivery of constituent services," said Murray. "We feel this will help our officials become even more effective and adept at finding new ways to meet the challenges they face."