Tag Archives: john amrhein

Retired MSU professor receives lifetime service award

Retirement? To some people it means leisurely travel, sitting on a beach, enjoying a good novel or spending time with family. To others it does mean some leisure time but it also means continuing your life’s work. Dr. Kenneth VerBurg, professor emeritus, a long-time Michigan State University faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Resource Development who worked with Extension on our State and Local Government team, continues to be an expert on local government. Retired from MSU in 2000, he continues to work and publish in this area.

The Michigan Township Association (MTA) recently presented its Lifetime Service Award to Dr. VerBurg in appreciation of all of his work on behalf of MSUE’s mission to help people improve their communities by improving Michigan local government. Dr. VerBurg received the award during the MTA’s 60th Annual Educational Conference and Expo that took place in Detroit Jan. 22–25.

Dr. VerBurg conducted the Michigan Municipal Clerks Institute for many years and played an important role in both the New County Commissioner workshops and the County Budget and Finance workshops as well.

He also wrote many books, among them Managing the Modern Michigan Township, an essential manual for township officials. Many view another, Guide to Michigan County Government, as the Bible of county government. The current edition was published in 2007, and Extension educator John Amrhein is organizing the effort to update it with the possibility of also offering an electronic version. We still use the book in our training for newly elected county officials. Every participant leaves the training with a copy of Ken’s book.

John shared some memories about working with Dr. VerBurg: “For many years, Ken and Lynn Harvey were the State and Local Government program. I had the pleasure of working closely with both of them in the years before their retirements. One time, as we wrapped up a workshop, and Lynn was giving me some advice for the next one, which Ken and I were doing, Lynn warned me that I needed to keep Ken on track, on time actually, as he liked to tell stories. Trouble was, I learned a lot from those stories, and assumed others did too, so it was a tough assignment.”

He went on to say, “Ken had a great influence on my early Extension career and was a great mentor! Both he and Lynn would encourage me to jump into teaching a portion of the program even though I knew I couldn’t do it as well as they did. They would let me handle the questions I could and were there to answer the unusual and tough questions that I didn’t know yet.”

Congratulations to Dr. VerBurg who will continue to be a great influence on many lives and communities for years to come.

Read more in this Lansing State Journal article and in this article that appeared on the MTA Web site.

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Training provided to newly elected county commissioners

As part of the I Know MI Numbers initiative, Michigan State University Extension educators, specialists and faculty are helping our cities and towns succeed. MSUE has been doing this kind of work for years. In fact, we have been providing training for newly elected county commissioners since 1968. The MSUE State and Local Government Area of Expertise Team (now known as the Public Policy Work Group) in the Greening Michigan Institute most recently continued the tradition by providing six workshops in Big Rapids, Grayling, Kalamazoo, Novi, Frankenmuth and Escanaba in November and December last year.

Why is it important that we train county commissioners?

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.

There are 687 county commissioners in the state. Two hundred twenty-seven commissioners attended the workshops, which highlighted key aspects of county government as well as the roles and responsibilities of county boards of commissioners.

Evaluations showed that the training improved commissioners’ understanding of county finance and the structure and function of county government, and that they are now more aware of resources available to them as commissioners. Commissioners who attended previous trainings stated that this most recent team and curriculum update was the best they had seen.

 The team spent several months updating the curriculum and used a variety of teaching methods to present the material including lectures, group work and polling the audience throughout the lessons with the Turning Point audience response system.

 Team members who worked on the program include John Amrhein, Nicole Bradshaw, Claire Layman, Julie Pioch and Mark Skidmore. Follow-up trainings on effective leadership and budget and finance also included Eric Scorsone and Howard Wetters.

 After more than 40 years, we continue to connect with county commissioners, and they continue to depend on us for training of new commissioners.

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