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NMSU Cooperative Extension Service County College expanding to give New Mexico an EDGE

Date: 11/23/2010

Due to popular demand, the County College program administered by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is expanding.

Anne Lightsey teaches a class during New Mexico EDGE's County College

"We are excited to brand our new umbrella organization New Mexico EDGE, which stands for Education Designed to Generate Excellence," said Mary DeLorenzo, program director. "This will allow us to expand our training programs into other areas of the public sector such as municipal entities, public sector entities and various state agencies that have a need for specialized training."

New Mexico EDGE is currently facilitating the development of curriculum for the state legislature-mandated ethics class for newly elected legislators.

"We have a curriculum committee, comprised of representatives from many stakeholder organizations, which has spent time pulling together various trainings offered by organizations such as the New Mexico Legislative Council, New Mexico Ethics Alliance and the New Mexico Public Institute of Law at the University of New Mexico," DeLorenzo said. "We are developing one core class that covers a general overview for our newly elected legislators. Currently, New Mexico EDGE has such a class in our certified public manager curriculum called 'Answering the Call to Public Service.' It covers ethics, conflict of interest, stewardship and other concepts that are so important for our government officials."

New Mexico EDGE is also involved in providing a program for newly elected county officials in partnership with the New Mexico Association of Counties. It will coordinate the new version of the Better Informed Public Officials Conference, which will be held in January.

"Previously, this training was conducted by NMAC in December of an election year. The association of counties has asked EDGE to deliver classes from the certified public manager program and the County College program that would benefit newly elected county officials prior to that organization's Midwinter Legislative Conference Jan. 17-20," DeLorenzo said.

Other entities with which New Mexico EDGE has had discussions regarding working together to develop training programs include the New Mexico Municipal League, Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation, county detention staff and New Mexico dam and levee operators.

"Groups such as parks and recreation and county detention find their employees entering their workforce with limited training in issues they are faced with on the job. Both would like to provide training that would help the individuals perform their current job, and allow employees to obtain knowledge that will help them advance within the organization," DeLorenzo said.

With the purpose of encouraging better government through education, County College began in 2002 as a dream of the late Sam Montoya, the executive director of the New Mexico Association of Counties, who asked NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Extension Service to develop an educational program for New Mexico's county officials and employees.

In 2008, the NMSU Department of Government became a regular partner in County College and introduced the nationally accredited certified public manager program. Curriculum committees to fully develop core programs and some affiliate-specific educational programs were established. New Mexico EDGE staff is working with affiliates of the New Mexico Association of Counties to develop affiliate-specific curricula.

To date, specific curriculum has been developed for county commissioners, county clerks, treasurers, public assessment officers, county detention staff, county GIS offices and Cooperative Extension Service county personnel.

Since 2003, when classes were first offered, 5,000 class units have been delivered, with nearly 2,000 in 2010 alone. Participants in County College courses receive NMSU continuing education units for each three-hour class unit.

Of those attending classes, 75 individuals have earned the certified public official designation-the first level of the certification program-by completing 18 classes in fields such as knowing your government, management and human resources.

Other government entities would like to have similar training for its elected officials and employees, but the title of County College seemed to limit the program to county personnel.

The New Mexico Public Service Education Center was then created in 2008 following the guidelines of the National Certified Public Manager Consortium.

"It was hard to communicate this name for our umbrella organization, and it was limiting in the potential audience we could serve, so we went through a series of branding discussions and developed New Mexico EDGE," DeLorenzo said.

Under the umbrella of New Mexico EDGE, De Lorenzo says the opportunity to help other public sector entities have a better-educated workforce is huge.

Written by Jane Moorman.

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