In the five years since the Municipal Association of South Carolina launched the Advanced Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government, municipal elected officials across the state have demonstrated a clear desire for continuing education, according to Eric Budds, deputy executive director.
"Starting with the first graduating class in 2016, the Association began to receive questions from Advanced MEO Institute graduates about offering more advanced courses," Budds said. "In response to these requests, the Association is pleased to announce an expansion and restructuring of the Advanced Institute to provide graduates with the opportunity to enroll in new classes and earn additional credit hours."
The foundation hasn't changed: Eligible Advanced Institute participants must continue to complete four of the six six-hour core courses in order to graduate from the Advanced MEO Institute and qualify to take the next level of Advanced Continuing Education classes.
The Advanced Continuing Education classes will begin in February 2019. The two courses will focus on current topics and will be available exclusively to Advanced MEO Institute graduates.
Advanced Institute graduates have the option to enroll in either a three-hour morning or afternoon session or may register for both, completing a six-hour day of training. Additionally, Advanced Institute graduates have the opportunity to receive three hours of continuing education credits for preconference sessions they attend at the Association's Annual Meeting starting in 2019.
The inaugural Advanced Continuing Education classes will be held in February 2019 the day after Hometown Legislative Action Day. The courses are "Freedom of Information Act: Making Transparency a Priority" and "SC Ethics Act: Avoiding Common Pitfalls." Both classes will provide a refresher on the laws, address common questions on legal requirements, and use practical exercises and discussions to improve awareness and compliance with the state laws.
The Advanced Continuing Education track is meant to provide the Association's top level of graduates with a pathway to stay current on the latest issues in local government. This learning track is self-directed and serves as an optional track for mayors and councilmembers who seek to continually work toward being the best public servant for their cities and towns.
Lessie B. Price, who serves on the Aiken City Council and graduated from MEOI in 1989, is the only elected official still in office today from one of MEOI's earliest classes. She can attest to the enduring value of keeping up with changes in municipal government and public service.
"As we work in government, there are so many vast changes taking place, and if you don't have this education, if you are not getting retooled with your training, then your whole focus will be lost," she said ahead of an anniversary marking 30 years of graduates earlier this year.
"So the more training you have, whether it is on the local level, state level or even going to our national meeting, the more beneficial it will be to you, the more informed you will be as you serve the people in the communities that you represent."
On December 14, the Association will mail registration information about HLAD and the Municipal Elected Officials Institute, Advanced Institute and Advanced Continuing Education. The information will also be available online. The preregistration deadline is January 22.