TESU partners with Hunterdon County in innovative Leadership Academy for public employees

Hunterdon County public employees recently enhanced their government leadership, community service, public budgeting, human resource management and strategic planning expertise through Thomas Edison State University’s Local Government Leadership Academy. The innovative program is the result of a collaborative effort between the county and TESU’s John S. Watson School of Public Service.

The program was conceived during a New Jersey Association of Counties annual meeting last year. During the gathering, representatives from Hunterdon County inquired about the development of a training program for midlevel managers with the school’s staff.

The Hunterdon County board of commissioners recognized 17 of its employees from the academy’s recent graduating cohort during a ceremony in November.

“The program we created is ideal for public service professionals who are eager to expand their leadership abilities, better serve their communities or continue their studies,” Malcolm Oliver, dean of the school, said. “The program’s structure and expectations are designed to accommodate their schedules with a curriculum that is immediately applicable to their work environments and professional aspirations.”

According to Oliver, participants in the inaugural program completed four group projects that integrated effective internal communications, motivators for a career in public service, employee health and wellness in addition to work-life balance themes.

The instructors for the courses included Dominic Novelli, former administrator, Bergen County; David G. Brown II, manager, Township of Ocean; and Christopher Shultz, assistant dean, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences at TESU. Participants earned a certificate upon completion of the program.

“What we learned was immediately relevant to our day-to-day work in municipal and government settings,” Gretchen Larsen, a confidential aide in the Hunterdon County Department of Administration who celebrated the completion of the program, said. “Since we interact with the public daily and deliver essential services to our community, expanding our communications and problem-solving skills while managing resources more efficiently benefits everyone we serve.”

Larsen and members of her cohort completed an oral presentation and culminating report during the program. She noted that the experience fostered cross-departmental collaborations and provided an opportunity for employees to network, share best practices and learn from each other.

“There are many benefits for local governments taking part in this type of leadership training,” Larsen pointed out. “It equips employees with the skills and knowledge they need to enhance their professional performance and inspires agencies to optimize their current employees’ talents and attract new employees by demonstrating an investment in their most important asset.”