The first workshop of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Local Leaders' Institute was held Feb. 23 and 24 at Cooperative Extension's Washoe County office in Reno. Twenty-five elected and appointed officials from western Nevada participated. Also participating in the workshop were city council members, county commissioners, and top government executives, including county managers and department managers.
The Local Leaders' Institute introduced the participants to Nevada's Open Meeting Law, various types of public financing and budgeting processes, and concepts pertaining to the structure of local and state government in Nevada. The workshop was led by Frederick Steinmann, Extension educator in Eureka County and assistant professor at Cooperative Extension. The special guest presenter for the workshop was Chester Newland, a leading expert on public administration who served as the former advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson.
According to Steinmann, one of the workshop's objectives was to reduce conflict between staff and elected/appointed officials over procedural matters pertaining to government management and administration.
"A tension was identified between elected/appointed officials and staff - a tension that ultimately has hurt government efficiency and effectiveness in Nevada," Steinmann said.
The idea for the workshop grew out of a 2011 survey of the Nevada Chapter of the American Planning Association's membership, conducted by Steinmann and Mike Harper, a member of the association and former advanced planning program planning manager of the Washoe County Department of Community Development.
The survey, which was funded by the association, asked a series of questions of practicing planners in the state about what skill sets they felt were important as practicing professional planners. Steinmann found that many of the new or current elected and appointed officials did not have all the necessary skills they needed to work efficiently upon taking office.
After reviewing their findings, Steinmann and Harper decided to develop the Local Leaders' Institute for Nevada, based largely on the efforts of other similar programs in other states, such as those offered by the American Planning Association and the International Economic Development Council.
Tray Abney, director of government relations at The Chamber in Reno-Sparks, attended the workshop and found it to be beneficial.
"I thought it would be a good opportunity to be more immersed in projects and planning on issues that I was always curious about," he said. "I was able to learn the different types of planning and development terms and also how budget's works. I am very engaged in the community and felt that the workshop could help me do my job better, and it did."
Abney said the workshop proved to be valuable for all in attendance.
"It introduced everyone to each other in the region." Abney said. "I also think it helped make sure that everyone was on the same page because we were all learning the same concepts, and now we are all able to approach different issues with the same mindset."
Dagny Stapleton, City of Reno planning commissioner, was impressed by the informational workshop and plans to attend more in the future.
"The workshop provided really insightful information and fantastic guest speakers," Stapleton said. "Chester Newland was an outstanding guest speaker and to hear first-hand his experience on federal policy was really interesting and a great opportunity to be a part of."
Eighteen participants completing an evaluation of the workshop all said they would be willing to attend future, more intensive workshops conducted as part of the Local Leaders' Institute, and they gave all sessions high marks for being helpful. Cooperative Extension will offer additional Local Leaders' Institute workshops in Eureka and Elko in late spring or early summer and in Las Vegas in late summer or early fall. For more information about the Local Leaders' Institute, contact Steinmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.