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!
County Administration and Management
Howard County – Auditor Question and Answer Portal
The Auditor Question & Answer Portal is a system that enhances the structure of checks and balances within Howard County government by streamlining the communication between the legislative and executive branches. During the budget process, the County Auditor’s Office, on behalf of the County Council, reviews the County Executive’s proposed operating and capital budget each year. In the past, the Auditor’s Office sent questions via email to various people in the Budget Office and other departments. This quickly became confusing as coordinating the answers became difficult. Follow-up questions from the Auditor’s Office would further complicate and convolute the process. The Auditor Question & Answer Portal solves this issue by requiring the Auditor’s Office to input their questions into the portal which then sends the question to the appropriate people in the process and returns the answer back through the same process. The streamlining of the process through the portal has increased response time and overall efficiency allowing for effective and crucial communication between the legislative and executive branches of Howard County Government.
Howard County – Automated and Expanded Residential Walk-Through Online Permitting Process
Howard County had a very successful Residential Walk-Through program. This program allowed for the quick application, review, and approval of miscellaneous residential projects, such as swimming pools and hot tubs; decks and sunporches; small additions; etc. The program accounted for over 40% of the permits issued in a typical week. However, the program only operated for a two-hour period, twice weekly. This led to staff falling behind on other required tasks, as well as putting homeowners (who need a little more attention), competing with professional contractors for time and resources. The solution was to redevelop the program to take full advantage of available technology. We automated the permitting process for these types of activities, requiring the licensed Maryland Home Improvement Contractors (MHIC) to become registered users and trained them to be able to apply online 24/7, while still allowing homeowners to apply in-person anytime during normal business hours (homeowners are also able to apply online if they so desire). The resulting changes freed-up valuable permit technicians’ time, increased efficiency and public service delivery, and moved >90% of these permits to an online portal, saving valuable travel time and human and environmental resources.
Montgomery County – County Telework Program
Flexibility in when, where, and how work is performed allows employees greater work-life balance while still meeting the employer’s operational goals. With an increasingly competitive labor market for employers, Montgomery County Government (MCG) overhauled its Telework Program to empower departments and employees to work in the way that best advanced MCG goals. The new Telework Program offers a range of telework options from situational telework to full-time telework, providing employees with the opportunity to maximize their telework schedules based on the on-site operational needs of their department and in-person services with County residents. Fully leveraging telework as another modality of work further enabled MCG to improve employee experience and retention; maintain, and in some cases increase, service delivery to residents; build a more resilient organization; and advance its environmental goals.
Montgomery County – Digitization of County Contracting
All levels of government are working to reduce their reliance on paper-based processes, and Montgomery County is no exception. Government procurement agencies practicing traditional, paper-based procurement processes face many challenges, including the potential for duplication, human error, high costs, and reduced productivity. The practice of eliminating these conventional methods in favor of digitization has been proven to result in many benefits including greater accessibility and increased efficiency. For decades, the County’s Office of Procurement has utilized paper-based methods to manage and assist in the administration of procurement actions for over 2,600 contracts valued at over $1.2 billion. A protocol was needed to eliminate the operational inefficiency of this conventional process. Procurement’s technical and operational staff worked in a highly collaborative manner to develop and implement a collection of process improvements while leveraging existing resources to meet this challenge. These efforts were fully developed and maintained with existing staff at no cost and implemented within one year.
Howard County – Innovative Procurement Training Program
The Howard County Office of Procurement and Contract Administration has implemented an innovative customized training program for departmental employees. This program helps non-procurement professionals understand the County’s process and requirements, defines our role and explains their responsibilities, and has resulted in better relationships with user agencies, faster turnaround times, and a better understanding of how to work within the County’s procurement system.
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.