Officials from 33 cities representing diverse sizes and locations participated in the class. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie represented the largest city and Govan Mayor Wilma Edmonds represented the smallest. Plus, the entire council from the Town of Pelzer participated.
“People often run for office on a specific issue. But when campaigning turns to governing, things are different,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. Wayne is a former mayor and councilmember in Mullins, S.C. “Most newly elected officials don’t come to the office with a deep knowledge of municipal budgets, forms of government and general city administration. Today’s session helped get them off to the right start.”
The session that got the most questions was on the topic of the Freedom of Information Act and ethics. “Typically these topics draw a lot of questions during Association training sessions,” said Tiger Wells, who led the session. Tiger is the Association’s government affairs liaison and staff expert on FOIA and ethics issues.
Tiger supplied the meeting participants with resources available on the Association’s website to help answer questions about FOIA and ethics, including the S.C. Press Association’s FOIA handbook.
Tiger noted that the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, Meghan Walker, recently met with Association staff to discuss ethics questions often posed by local officials. Tiger passed on Meghan’s advice about contacting the Ethics Commission with questions: “Always ask first when you have questions about a certain activity.” She strongly encouraged local officials to ask questions and assured the Association staff that the commission’s staff will be responsive.
Other issues covered in the orientation class included leadership, advocacy, risk management, budgeting, forms of government and general city administration.
Local officials also learned about participating in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The institute offers both in-person and online training. Mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the classes immediately upon election. The next MEOI session is on May 18 covering the Freedom of Information Act and Municipal Governance/Policy.
At the conclusion of the training, Wayne left the group with some sound advice from his years as mayor in Mullins: "Invite your legislators to visit your city so they understand the challenges you face before you need to ask them for a vote" and "Hold regular council retreats to establish your priorities and take time to understand each other's perspectives."
A copy of the Power Point presentations and all of the resources shared during the session are here.