Kevin Riley

We all want to live in a community that we can call excellent. We want a community that is responsive and fulfills our need for public services, education, recreation and social interaction. In the Fox Valley we are fortunate to have municipalities that strive for excellence every day. However, reaching the goal of excellence is not easy today, as economic forces over the last 20 years have put unprecedented demands on municipal leaders, staffs, employees, budgets, and infrastructure.

The challenge in today’s economy is for municipalities to optimize individual and department performance while maintaining or reducing costs. Because Waubonsee’s Workforce Development Department works with organizations to optimize performance, we thought our capabilities would be perfect to help municipalities address current challenges and create efficiencies.

That’s why, in 2013, representatives from Waubonsee met with local municipal leaders and asked what training would help them to better serve residents, cope with change and enable employees to grow professionally. Based on their input, we created a training program called Communities of Excellence.

Since it’s inception, Communities of Excellence has become a national award-winning leadership program for public sector employees to develop professional skills that can assist in career growth and help local governments meet ongoing challenges.

Waubonsee takes this training commitment to the community seriously. We are proud that the design of our Communities of Excellence program was a team effort with district municipalities. The training objectives and logistics of the program were all structured with input from municipal leaders. Some program requirements requested by municipalities include.

• Training should be a maximum of 4-hours in length, held once per week from 8am-Noon

• A variety of topics should be covered

• Material must be relevant and immediately applicable

• Training must contain a group activity and peer interaction

• Incorporate networking opportunities, benchmarking of ideas and the sharing of best practices

Curriculum in the Communities of Excellence program is as diverse as its participants. Topics include leadership, communication, government operations, working with generations, budgeting, time management and others. To date, participants represent fourteen municipal departments that include administration, city clerk, customer service, fire, finance, human resources, parks and public works.

Communities of Excellence is proving to serve as a catalyst for municipal collaboration. The training environment is open, creative and energetic. Group activities encourage the sharing of best practices and networking. During a six week series, participants find they have few differences and much in common with their peers. Frequently success stories are shared about how a previously discussed training topic was applied that improved employee communication, streamlined a process, saved money or reduced stress in a department.

Since 2014, over 90 public sector employees have participated in one or more of the Spring or Fall Series. Twenty-two of those 90 participants have been recognized for attending all available 96 hours of professional development. Certainly, local municipalities are devoted to creating communities of excellence.

Kevin Riley is a Workforce Development Account Representative at Waubonsee Community College.

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