New Commissioner Trainings educate county commissioners

Last week, our Michigan State University Extension educators finished up their New Commissioner Trainings across the state, partnering with the Michigan Association of Counties. Six separate sessions took place. Locations included Big Rapids, Kalamazoo, Gaylord, Escanaba, Novi and Frankenmuth. Julie Pioch, John Amrhein, Mark Skidmore, Eric Scorsone, Kurt Schindler, Brad Neumann and Terry Gibb taught the sessions.

The county is an important partner of MSU Extension, so it’s an opportunity to highlight our training abilities right from the get-go and provide an example of a quality educational program. It is also the only training opportunity that county commissioners have in this position.

From maintaining records of property ownership to issuing marriage licenses to collecting and distributing taxes to providing a functional and effective justice system, county government is responsible for handling a diverse array of functions for Michigan residents. Every two years, the citizens elect county commissioners to develop policy and provide financial oversight to all aspects of county government. The role of a county commissioner is well defined by statute; however, understanding the relationships between the county board and other elected officials and department heads is very complicated. We are training commissioners so that they understand their roles within the complex system of county government.

This is MSU Extension’s 46th year doing this program.

According to Julie Pioch, they’ve “attempted over time to make the program more interactive and to provide time for the commissioners to network with each other and learn from the more experienced commissioners by asking questions. The content changes with issues relevant to county government.”

Attending the workshops were 178 out of the 622 Michigan county commissioners. Attendees included a high percentage of newly elected officials, who felt more prepared to take on their new positions after this training.

When asked what they will do differently after attending the workshop, one participant wrote, “I will go in office being more of an asset now. I can hit the ground running and know better the questions I need to ask.”

Our county commissioners continue to depend on us for training of new commissioners, and this training is a great way to keep our communities strong!

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