2020 Best Practices Awards

The county government has effectively developed a legacy leader program designed to sustain leadership excellence during a time of increasing employee requirements and loss of organizational knowledge. The county a leadership growth strategy to identify and develop employees who have the potential to hold future leadership positions in county government. The goal is to push employees beyond their current knowledge base and expand their knowledge of county administration.

Participants report growth opportunities through successful mentoring relationships and personalized development plans that focuses on their areas of interest and professional development needs. Providing individualized training to employees has demonstrated the commitment that Charlotte County has the professional growth of staff and growing leaders from within.

Concerned about a high turnover rate in EMS and Fire professionals, Flagler County created the Flagler County Fire Leadership Academy. In partnership with the Flagler County School District, the academy is a classroom-to-career curriculum that provides opportunities for high school students, starting in the 9th grade and offers classes in Emergency Planning and Response and Firefighting 1, which is the first step in earning an emergency medical responder certificate. When students reach the 11th grade, they begin dual enrollment at the Flagler Technical Institute so they can also attain their Emergency Medical Technician Certification. In their senior year of high school, students can take their final firefighter courses and are ready to sit for their final assessments.

In October 2017, the academy accepted 50 high school students and saw its first graduates in 2019. The program is viewed as a success, with the 2020/21 seeing another 50 enrollees. The program has been lauded as a first of its kind in the country and should ensure the county has a steady stream of future EMS and Fire Fighter professional.

Recognizing the incidents of racial injustice that continue to occur across the nation, Leon County’s Created Equal event series invites citizens to have thought-provoking conversations about race-related issues and how we can bridge the racial divide that exists in our community and in our country.

Created Equal events are planned with a format that contrasts starkly and intentionally with the setting and atmosphere of a County Commission meeting, workshop, or town hall meeting.

Since 2016, Leon County and The Village Square have hosted five Created Equal events that have collectively engaged more than 3,000 citizens in facilitated discussions on race relations in our community. As a direct result of the County’s efforts to engage an ever-widening group of citizens, the Created Equal events have grown in attendance and popularity each year, with maximum capacity turnout in recent years. Each annual event has featured a unique keynote speaker to open and guide a community discussion, which have included inspirational speakers, Emmy-nominated television and stage performers, as well as local civic and community leaders and storytellers willing to share intimate moments in their lives.

Florida law requires that each county ensure the proper final disposition of indigent and unclaimed deceased persons. Each year, Okaloosa receives an average of 30 unclaimed individuals who die without family or financial support to cover the cost of internment. Over the past 17 years, Okaloosa County has contracted with various funerals to provide internment services for over 450 deceased individuals. The cost for each internment coasts the county approximately $1,800.

Beyond the costs to the county, Commissioner Ketchel, upon learning of this responsibility, was moved by compassion and wanted to ensure these unfortunate individuals could have a dignified burial.

Working with local clergy and churches, Commissioner Ketchel helped launch the Lazarus Field Memorial Service Project. The Project is an ecumenical ceremony to bury the invisible individuals who have died without the means to provide their own burial. It is an adjunct ceremony that provides a dignified manner to memorialize the remains of those who would not have funeral services.

The first service was held on November 2, 2016. Every year since, the local faith community has met to remember and say goodbye to the invisible members of our society.

In the News: County Libraries Presented Best Practices Award

In years past, programming at the Volusia County Public Library (VCPL) meant everything from magicians and concerts to free meals and makerspaces. However, not in 2020. Daily programs used to include crafts, gaming, and story times. However, not in 2020. In the summer, families regularly filled auditoriums for the presenters who performed thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Library groups. However, not in 2020. This year, things changed…and library services had to change as well. Library staff have had to get creative during both the closure of the VCPL’s 14 branches, and their reopening with new social distancing precautions which prevented the 600 planned programs from being presented.

Studies have shown that access to books during the summer can reduce loss in reading skills from one school year to the next. With the usual Summer Reading activities not possible during the library closure, staff had to brainstorm efforts to combat this “summer slide”. VCPL youth staff proposed an innovative idea to encourage reading: Lit Kits to Go! With this service, patrons can check out a bundle of recommended titles from curbside (or inside library branches upon reopening). Children submit a form requesting a kit. Forms are submitted each week. The form makes it possible for youth staff to cater kits to each individual child by collecting information such as reading level, hobbies, and interests.

In addition to receiving library books picked just for them, children would get crafts and educational activities in their bag. In the first three months that Lit Kits were available, over 800 requests were fulfilled throughout Volusia County. Surveys are included with the kits, and the feedback was overwhelming positive and supportive from the community.
In 2019, the ICG launched its new County Government Best Practices Award program. As envisioned by the ICG Strategic Plan, the primary goals of the program are to:
(1) recognize exemplary work by county officials;
(2) increase peer-to-peer exchanges between counties; and,
(3) raise awareness of county innovations throughout the state. The 2020 application period for the program was announced on September 1 and closed on November 6. This year, the Institute received 16 applications from 5 counties.

Previous Winners

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Listed in the FCF Strategic Plan, the “Best Practices in County Government” award program is intended to: (1) recognize exemplary work by county officials; (2) increase peer-to-peer exchanges between counties; (3) raise awareness of county innovations throughout the state; (4) increase awareness of FAC and the FCF; and (5) increase participation in FAC events from other members of the county family. The 2019 application period ran from February 1 – March 31, 2019. To view the 2019 winners, click here.