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  April 2003 – About This Website
This website is a work in progress, and I am solely responsible for its content at this time -- and therefore I get to have fun including some personal opinions and preferences. As more people get involved, this site will become more of a group forum. It is my intent that this will serve as the basis for a website that will be managed by whatever entity ends up hosting something like a “local government institute.”

This site describes an effort to provide training and development resources for anyone who participates in local government in Humboldt County. I initiated this undertaking last December as the result several years of experience with public meetings, both as a private citizen and as a professional facilitator (and mediator.)

Time and again I have seen where things could work so much better for everyone involved, if we only had more of a common background in how to work well with each other in groups. Most people end up elected, appointed, or hired in various public positions with little to no training in communication and group process – and yet, working together and communicating well with each other are fundamental to a healthy democracy.

I garnered the support of the City Managers / County Administrative Officer Working Group to pursue developing training opportunities, and have a small contract via the City of Arcata to support some of my time on this. Fellow local independent consultant Brian Mau is teaming-up with me via a community development grant that covers his time. We are both keenly personally interested in this and find it a joy to be able to do this as part of our work. Another independent consultant, my beau, Bob Pottberg, has generously put this website together for me and is maintaining it for the time being.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Nancy Reichard
Net Gain
(707) 822-5965
fax: 822-6818

To help raise both the quality and efficiency of local government and civic participation in Humboldt County by providing training* for elected and appointed officials, staff, and interested citizens about local government roles and process, with an eye towards making such training easily accessible on an on-going basis, and for participation to be the norm rather than the exception for those involved with local government.

Initial Priorities: Provide training for appointed and elected public bodies of the county and cities (councils, commissions, and committees) and their staff.

Initial Goals:
  • 1) Organize a training workshop presented by Len Wood and Associates for elected and appointed officials, and staff, to be held in the fall of 2003.

  • 2) Work towards establishing a way to promote and provide training for all facets of local government on an on-going basis.

*Training: includes self-education, discussions, orientations, and on-going evaluation, as well as classes and workshops. And peer support. Training and development. There may be (a) better word(s) to use…

Often local government discourse gets derailed, or blows-up, or is less effective simply because participants aren't clear on appropriate procedures, processes and roles. Because of (unnecessary) lack of understanding and agreement about process, content often doesn't get the quality attention that it could (and relationships lose rather than gain trust and respect.)

This especially applies where elected or appointed officials must work with each other, and where any combination of elected or appointed bodies, staff and the public interact. This includes the relationships between council, commissions, and staff; meetings, procedures and processes; the Brown Act and conflicts of interest; and the role of public participation.

There was one all-day workshop about these topics held locally in 1996. Other than that, for the most part people have had to travel out of the area for this type of training. Although there are benefits to getting together with colleagues from other areas, it can be challenging for elected and appointed officials and staff to have the budget, time (and motivation) to travel out-of-county for training. Few if any of our local governments have developed the capacity to provide training in-house.

Providing more training and related resources locally, and providing better information about what training and resources are available elsewhere, will facilitate participation and help to make it more cost-effective and productive for everyone.

    - Local government staff, elected and appointed officials, and the citizens of Humboldt County have a common understanding of “best practices” for working together.

    - There is community-wide awareness that constructive ways of working together can always be learned and created, such that there is more hope and enthusiasm than there is frustration and passive aggression towards being involved with “government.”

    - There is easy access to information and training about the roles and responsibilities of those who participate in local government.

    - Training is institutionalized – it is the norm rather than the exception.

At any given time, there are at least 300 individuals serving on 70 or more elected or appointed public bodies in Humboldt County (not including the 33 school boards) Reference: Humboldt County Citizens’ Guide to County Government, published by the League of Women Voters, 2003, (In progress: ascertaining current statistics.)

Elected Officials
There are approximately 50 elected, public bodies in Humboldt County (the Board of Supervisors, 7 city councils, and +40 special district boards of directors.) At an average of five members each, there are 250 elected officials at any one time serving on these.

Appointed Officials
The county and cities have numerous commissions and committees appointed by the board or council. There are two superior court-appointed bodies.

All of the above either direct and/or are served by staff.

In addition there is the potential to help with training opportunities for staff in all positions within local government.

Interested Citizens and the General Public
Besides officials and staff, it’s great to have citizens that understand how government and good process works. Providing officials, staff and the public with some common background can help everyone to work together more effectively, even (and especially) during conflicts.

Eventually there could be training or orientation sessions for persons thinking about getting involved with local government. This could help encourage (if it didn’t scare-off) participation on committees and other roles.

  School Boards
For local governance regarding primary and secondary education in Humboldt County, there is the Board of Education and 33 school boards. Some may also have appointed and volunteer advisory committees. All have staff and the public to interact with. The school boards, compared to other local government bodies, have some distinct differences, however, there is good potential for sharing training interests and resources on common topics such as meeting management, public participation, working together well as a group, etc.

(Brian Mau will conduct a needs assessment over the next few months)

Types of Resources
  • A means of providing and promoting training on a regular basis.
    • Organize trainings
    • Do outreach
    • Ongoing outreach to new officials and staff
  • Provide easy access to current info regarding what resources are available, when, where, etc. (such as a calendar and a resource directory)
  • A local library that serves as an accessible repository of books, articles, videos and other relevant information sources.
  • A well-maintained website that provides information directly, links to (and from) relevant sites, and a calendar of events such as training sessions.
  • What else:
Types Of Activities
  • Self-directed (i.e. reading material, websites)
  • Peer discussions (i.e. brown bag lunches)
  • Orientations for newly elected or appointed folks
  • Lectures ( i.e. invited guest speakers; panels)
  • Workshops and classes - local
    • Local trainers
    • Out-of-area trainers
  • Workshops and classes - elsewhere
  • Pre-set (i.e. once-a-year planning commissioners’ workshop)
  • On-demand/customized
  • What else:
I .   "Civic Participation":   Elected and appointed bodies (and related staff and citizenry)
    a. Topics that are relevant to all bodies b. Topics specific to each type (planning commission, city council, etc.) c. Topics for people thinking about getting involved with local government.
I I .   Management and Operations: Managerial and supervisorial staff; other staff

(many specific topics could be added to these lists)


Civic : Of or pertaining to a city, citizen, or citizenship.
Citizen : 1. A native or naturalized person owing allegiance to, and entitled to protection from, a government. 2. A resident of a city or town.
Civics : Of or pertaining to a city, citizen, or citizenship.
Institute : A group or society devoted to the promotion of some particular field of knowledge or art. Also, a school for specialized instruction, often technical.
Civil : Of or pertaining to citizens and their government.

  RESOURCES: Local Organizations

City Managers / County Administrative Officer Working Group (Dan Hauser)
Humboldt Area Foundation (Kathy Moxon)
Cascadia Leadership Institute (Mary Gelinas / Roger James / Julie Fulkerson)
League of Women Voters (Nancy Kay, President)

Humboldt State University (Maggie Gainer)
College of the Redwoods (Ginevra Blake)

A possible model:
      Training and Development Alliance (“TaDa”)
      “To provide more, coordinated local training for social services.”
      Humboldt Community Network

442-2993, x328 Helen Gale

  RESOURCES: Local Materials

Humboldt County – Citizens Guide to County Government, League of Women Voters of Humboldt County. 24 pp. Booklet. 2003. (updated every few years)

- Emphasis on county government, but also information about intergovernmental bodies, cities, school districts and special districts

  RESOURCES: Organizations, Elsewhere

N. Ca. Local Gov’t Leadership Institute (HSU& Chico) ?? - “Call Extended Education, 826-3731 to get on mailing list”

Len Wood and Associates.
- Consulting firm based in Southern California. Len led the Commission and Advisory Board workshop here in 1996 which was well-received.

Institute for Local Self Government (Sacramento)
- Research and information.
- “Teaching Local Government – good citizenship begins early” - Curriculum for teaching about local government in schools.

League of California Cities
- Wide range of services provided.
- Has some online courses: Keys to Serving on a City Advisory Board or Commission; Meeting Management Series
- Training program specifically for new councilmembers
- Requires membership – unclear who/how obtained

Southern California Institute of Local Government
- Non-profit, provides training and consulting. Primarily for managerial and supervisory staff.
- Perhaps some elements of a model for an “HCILOG”

Local Government Commission
- “A non-profit organization working to build livable communities.”

  RESOURCES: Materials

Handbooks by / from Len Wood:
      Commissioner’s Little Handbook
      Elected Official’s Little Handbook
      (+others re management and budgets)

At a future revision, of the site, links to the following articles will be included:

  • Gallery of articles: Local government process in the news
  • Short essays
    • “Bowling Alone”, by Robert D. Putnam, in The National Voter, Sept / Oct. 1995.
    • “Guerillas in Our Midst”, by Lance Morrow, in Time, March 18, 1996.

  ADDITIONAL LINKS (to be added in the future)

  • City and County Websites