Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Orientation class draws newly elected mayors and councilmembers from around S.C.

More than 40 newly elected mayors and councilmembers gathered at the Municipal Association of South Carolina today for an orientation class on local government issues.

Officials from 33 cities from all over the state and from all population sizes participated in the class. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie represented the largest city and Govan Mayor Wilma Edmonds represented the smallest.

“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. George 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.

Local officials also learned about participating in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government that includes in-person and online training. Mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the classes immediately upon election.

Other issues covered in today’s orientation class included leadership, advocacy, risk management, budgeting, forms of government and general city administration.

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.

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