Introducing Our Celebratory Blog Series: Showcasing the Remarkable Achievements of Maryland’s Award-Winning Counties!
Join us on an exciting journey as we embark on a special blog series dedicated to honoring the exceptional accomplishments of the counties that triumphed in the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2023 Achievement Awards. Each week, we will shine a well-deserved spotlight on a few remarkable counties, delving into their accomplishments, innovative initiatives, and the profound impact they have had on their communities. Let’s dive in!
Civic Education and Public Information
Howard County – Citizens’ Election Fund System
Following a 2016 vote by the voters of Howard County, Maryland, to approve a charter amendment to require the County Council to create a voluntary Citizens’ Election Fund (CEF) System for candidates for County Executive or County Council, the County Council passed such legislation in 2017. This legislation required the Department of Finance to perform various functions in setting up the system in time for the election cycle that started on January 1, 2019, administering the system and serving as the administrative arm of the Citizens’ Election Fund Commission. The system intends to encourage greater voter participation in County elections, promote and encourage broader access to elected office in Howard County, and prevent large donations from having undue influence in government. Additionally, the intention is to enable citizens of Howard County to run for office on the strength of their ideas, supported by small donations from ordinary people and matching funds from the CEF. While many jurisdictions nationwide have a public campaign finance program, Howard County is only the second county in the United States to have a public campaign finance program for a local election.
Howard County – County Ambassador Training Program
The County Ambassador Training Program is an initiative organized by the Office of Human Rights & Equity in partnership with the Office of the County Executive and Howard County Administration. This initiative makes community members aware of Howard County government offices and departments while also providing them with an understanding of the services and resources available to them. More specifically, the program seeks to turn residents into Community Ambassadors equipped to tell their neighbors about the resources and services available to them, as they have need. In addition, it provides attendees with the contacts, information, and connections necessary to be informed citizens who experience all that Howard County Government has to offer.
Baltimore County – Community-Based Dementia Friendly Education and Support Initiative
Dementia Friendly Baltimore County (DFBC) is an innovative community-based, cross-sector dementia education and supports initiative coordinated by Baltimore County’s Department of Aging’s Caregiver Programs staff. Its diverse volunteer leadership team of 30+ individuals is a robust collaboration representing a wide array of community touch points, organized in work teams to educate, train, and increase resources. Teams include faith communities, neighborhood associations, hospitals, libraries, caregivers, equestrian therapy, and more. DFBC aims to grow a more informed, supportive Baltimore County, where individuals living with dementia and caregivers/care partners feel supported, valued, and better able to access the resources they need to live the lives they choose. Successes include: creating innovative memory cafes; offering a free public caregiver education series called Living Creatively with Dementia; introducing the arts and LEGO PLAY to increase the caregivers’ meaningful engagement toolbox and caregiver self-care workshops; creating a speakers bureau of 17 trained presenters to give one-hour dementia information session throughout the community, developing resource cards for first responders to give to families when responding to calls; translating materials in four languages and offering presentations in diverse communities; growing partnerships, including with co-sponsoring events, including Johns Hopkins, Alzheimer’s Association, and more.
Montgomery County – Department of Permitting Services Special Events Permit
The Department of Permitting Services (DPS) supports organizations that seek to make Montgomery County, Maryland, a destination for events that help foster economic development and promotes the county’s diversity of rich activity filled with art, entertainment, attractions, historic sites, and special events. Implemented in May 2018, the DPS Special Events Permit serves as a planning tool for event planners to ensure their event complies with local laws, ordinances, and executive regulations. Most importantly, the special event, whether a festival or professional golf tournament, both organizers and the public memorialize the event as a positive and successful experience. The Special Events Permit requires event planners to consider and prepare for the safe installation of tents, electrical equipment, stages, traffic management plans, adequate public facilities such as porta johns, alcohol licensure, vendor licensure, play equipment related to carnivals, and road and lane closures. Moreover, event planners are educated on the fees that must be paid and associated inspections that must be passed before the approval of licenses, permits, and the event date. The outcome of its implementation is that event planners experience shorter planning timelines adequately coordinated with the five divisions comprising DPS and the many partner executive agencies, including Police, Fire/Rescue, Alcohol Beverage Services, Environmental Protection, Health & Human Services, and the Office of the County Executive.
Howard County – Training Resources Provided for New Complete Streets Policy and Design Manual
Howard County developed training materials to ensure that technical staff from the private and public sectors fully understand and effectively implement the County Complete Streets Policy and Complete Street Design Manual. Materials such as training video modules and interactive online mapping guides were developed and distributed to supplement in-person training sessions on website-based resources. The extensive training effort resulted in a smooth transition to a new paradigm for street design that prioritizes safety over speed and accommodates all modes of travel equally.
Together, let’s explore the remarkable stories behind these award-winning counties and draw inspiration from their passion, creativity, and commitment to making a positive difference. View all 2023 NACo Achievement Award winners through their interactive and searchable map. View our full series of 2023 Maryland Award Winners.