Twenty-four Bulloch County government employees, among them one elected constitutional officer, namely Tax Commissioner Leslie Akins, and several department heads and program directors such as Fire Chief Ben Tapley and E-911 Director Kelly Barnard, graduated Dec. 8 from the county’s first Management Development Program, or MDP, class.
Also including some employees aspiring to or just beginning in leadership roles, the program graduates represented 15 departments of the county government, which has more than 300 employees.
The county paid the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia $55,223 to provide the nationally recognized training in-person in Statesboro. Originally 25 people were enrolled, one of whom resigned from county employment shortly before graduating, and the course took up 20 full days. So the cost was roughly $110 a day per participant, from the departmental education and training budgets.
Instructor Eric Robinson came to teach the course two to four days each month from June to October.
“We learned about how to be a manager and a leader in our divisions and for the county. …,” said Broni Gainous, community relations manager for the county commissioners. “And we had to do two different things. We had to do a group project to learn about teamwork, obviously, but we also had to do individual projects and presented those projects in order to graduate.”
Some of the individual projects were in use by the county and citizens by the time of the graduation, while graduates are continuing to work on other projects for real-life application, she reported.
“It gave the participants a chance to sort of step out of the office and that day-to-day stuff and say, OK, we want you to identify one problem in your department and come up with a solution,” said Gainous, also one of the program graduates.
Some of the projects also have applications across departmental lines.
For example, Casey Brown, Geographic Information System technician and mobile home appraiser in the Board of Tax Assessors office, built the new “Where to Vote” page now found on the Bulloch County elections office website at https://bullochcounty.net/elections or via the direct link https://arcg.is/114Dqb. It leads to a map of the county, where clicking on the orange ballot icons for any of the county’s 16 voting precinct opens a chart showing the precinct name, address, Election Day hours and phone number.
Now an MDP graduate, Brown is continuing work on an app that informs voters, based on their addresses, of the specific county commissioners, city council members and state representatives who represent each voter, Gainous said.
Meanwhile, Kelly Barnard, E-911 Director for the dispatch center serving Bulloch, Candler and Evans counties, submitted a project to add new Emergency Service Numbers, or ESN, identifiers. These are meant to shorten response times, particularly since the Bulloch County Fire Department has grown to 14 stations and substations.
County Engineer Brad Deal designed a local road safety plan as his project. It reportedly includes proposals such as adding alert strips and widening the white lines along the edges of more county roads.
Assistant Public Works Director Jacob Jackson reportedly created a new plan to keep solid waste convenience centers cleaner while reducing the number of trips required to haul waste to the transfer station.
The course focused on self-awareness, problem solving, communication, analysis and creativity as elements of management. Participants started by completing assessments of their own strengths and areas for improvement, which were compared to assessments by colleagues and supervisors.
List of graduates
Graduates for the Inaugural 2022 MDP class are Tax Commissioner Leslie Akins; Safety Coordinator Lamont Ballard, Assistant Public Works Director Jacob Jackson, Roads Superintendent Mitch Johnson and Administrative Assistant Alexis Knox from Public Works; E-911 Director Kelly Barnard; Probation Director Christie Black; GIS Tech/Mobile Home Appraiser Casey Brown and Senior Appraiser Robert Fisher from the Tax Assessors Office; Athletic Program Supervisor Wally Brown, Events and Communications Coordinator Kimberly Sharpe and Programs Supervisor Justin Smith from Recreation and Parks; Government Buildings Manager David Campbell; County Engineer Brad Deal; Senior Lineman Louis Foss from Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport; Community Relations Manager Broni Gainous from Administration; Assistant CFO Breanna Haydon from Finance;
Deputy Magistrate Karen Jones from Magistrate Court; Lt. Shanekia Jones and Cpl. David Tilton from Bulloch County Correctional Institute; HR Specialist Joleen Orfield from Human Resources; Planning and Development Director James Pope; and Fire Chief Ben Tapley and Fire Training Officer Mitch Sikes from the Fire Department.