Another one of my goals for this year was to grow and strengthen existing Institutes and to develop new ones. The easiest way to accomplish this is to learn from each other, both as individuals and as state/provincial associations. Attending classes and taking advantage of your state/provincial associations are the best ways to reach your professional development goals.
In June, I had the opportunity to attend the 92nd Mississippi Municipal League Annual Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi. There were over 3,000 attendees, including mayors, councilpersons, clerks, other department heads, vendors and family guests. The vendor hall was at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, and it was packed full of everything from huge dump trucks to software vendors. I should be stocked up on notepads and pens for at least the next six months.
I had a very nice room and a wonderful view from the 26th floor of the Beau Rivage, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. I got up early and watched the shrimp boats go out. Sunday night I watched two dolphins play out in the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches looked really pretty but it was way too hot to go out on the sand. There were a few beachgoers, but not many.
On Sunday, I attended the MML Board of Directors Meeting/Luncheon. During the luncheon, the MML Executive Director Shari Veazey recognized me as the newly sworn-in IIMC President. It was a nice feeling to be recognized by the MML Board. I took a picture with her and the MML President, Mayor Carolyn McAdams of Greenwood. The Mississippi Municipal Clerks/Collectors Association has a good working relationship with MML.
One of my deputy clerks, Kristal Jones chairs the MML/MMCCA Silent Auction. Since 2003, MMCCA and MML has held a Silent Auction each year at the MML Summer Conference; proceeds are split 50/50. This money goes to fund scholarships for MML and MMCCA classes; over $8,500 from the Auction and 50/50 raffle were raised this year.
On Monday afternoon, I attended a class taught by Mississippi’s Institute Director Dr. Jason Camp. His session was based on a book called Getting Along: How to work with Anyone by Amy Gallo. It was a very interesting class and Dr. Camp kept everyone’s attention during the 2-hour class. Some of my take-aways from the session were:
* Identify the person’s behavior, not the person.
* You can control your own attitude, reactions, and approach.
* You can’t avoid your work relationships.
* Is it possible to have work friends?
* Clean up your side of the street.
* Be considerate of other people.
* Find some common ground and look at their problems from their perspectives.
On Wednesday at noon, during the Annual MML Awards Luncheon, each clerk who earns either their state or IIMC certifications are individually recognized and their pictures are taken with our ID Dr. Camp and the MMCCA President at this “graduation ceremony”. This is in front of all the mayors and councils and it is a celebration time for these municipalities and their clerks. There were probably around twenty clerks recognized. I am so proud of them and their hard-earned accomplishments.
After the Awards Luncheon, MMCCA held its annual business meeting and swearing-in of the new officers for 2023-2024. We took some pictures of the newly sworn-in officers. Congratulations to the new president Suzette Davis, City Clerk from Collins, Mississippi.
Then in July, I had the opportunity to attend the 68th Annual Institute of the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association in Lewis Center, Ohio outside of Columbus. There were 75 clerks and ten vendors in attendance, including 17 first-time clerks. Janice Bates facilitated an Athenian Dialogue on Sunday and the Institute was from Monday to Thursday. It was possible to obtain 11 points toward the CMC or MMC. Each morning, 6:30 a.m. came early for breakfast and class started at 8:00 a.m. These Ohio clerks don’t mess around.
First thing that I noticed about Ohio – it is a lot bigger than Mississippi. Almost 12 million people vs. 3 million people in Mississippi. In Ohio, there are 900 municipalities and they were very excited that they had grown to around 350 cities as OMCA members. In Mississippi, we have 300 municipalities and almost all of them are in MMCCA.
Past IIMC President Mary Johnston and I served on the IIMC Board of Directors together and I already knew how incredible she was, but I was reminded of this on this trip. She took such great care of me. We talked, laughed and caught up on all the news. All of the Ohio clerks were fabulous and so welcoming to me. I would highly recommend attending an Ohio Clerk Conference; put this on your IIMC bucket list.
The OMCA Professional Development Committee is very active; they are the ones who put together the Institute and the speakers/instructors. Mississippi has an active education committee but our ID Dr. Jason Camp puts together most of the training. I liked how involved their Professional Development Committee was in the planning; their hard work was obvious.
In Mississippi, we have a 3-year clerk institute, which meets twice a year in three locations, Oxford, Jackson, and Hattiesburg. Each class/location averages 30-35 clerks, so around 100 clerks in a given year. After the three years, if they have the points, they graduate with either a Certified Municipal Clerk/Collector or a Certified Deputy Municipal Clerk/Collector during the MML Summer Conference. When they start their certification classes, we tell them to go ahead and join the IIMC so that when they finish the state certification program, they have their 2-year membership requirement and they usually are very close to obtaining their CMC.
Now for the pros and cons: In Ohio they do not have a state certification program, which means there are no graduation programs and no state certificates from Mississippi State University or MMCCA. On the flip side, they do not have a state certification program “competing” with the CMC. It seems like it would be harder to get the CMC without a structured Institute, but I may be biased. It would be interesting to see how many states have a state certification program.
Our first class on Monday morning was called “Achievement Now/Elevate Your Success!” by Tyler Enslin. He gave us some things to think about:
- Sometimes we sacrifice what we want most for what we want right now. Example:
We want to lose weight, but we see the donut and what happens? We eat the donut.
- What you see is what you look for. He showed us a video and we had to count the times people were passing the white ball and we totally missed the dancing bear.
- What is it that I say no to – focus on the basics. E to E Ratio – Entertainment to Education Ratio. Average American reads 4 books/year usually fiction. The Average CEO reads 50-60 books/year usually non-fiction.
At break time, I visited with the vendors and the Silent Auction table. I was very impressed with both. There were some really nice and beautiful items; they raised over $1,000 for Ohio clerk education and scholarships.
One thing I thought was neat – Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., the MMC’s stood up and left the classroom, while everyone else stayed for another class, and we had our own “session”. It was a bonding experience for the MMC’s, plus some extra recognition for them. Maybe we can try this in Mississippi with our MMC’s.
Our session was a guided tour of the German Village in Columbus and then we had dinner at a German restaurant. This was a treat because we do not have any German restaurants in Mississippi. I enjoyed my bratwurst and sauerkraut, but I really enjoyed the chocolate cream puff. We had a history lesson of the village from our tour guide. I found it particularly interesting because as you can tell, my last name is Hess, and some of my ancestors did live and travel through Ohio. Perhaps some of my own ancestors lived in this German Village at some point in our family history.
On Tuesday morning, our class was called, “Civility and How to Deal with Difficult People” by Diann McDowell. Her major points were:
- Discord is the foundation of any democracy; We need some discord to make a democracy work.
- No one else’s opinion is no business of yours.
- There are 163 possible emotions on the “emotion wheel”.
- Doing nothing is a mistake. If your “spidey-sense” is tingling, talk to the police.
- Sometimes tough conversations have to be said, even with elected officials.
- Civility is the thread of humanity that binds us together.
- It is okay to not be okay. It is not okay to stay there. (referring to stress)
Right before lunch, OMCA held its Annual Business meeting. OMCA President Mollie Prasher had asked me to say a few words about IIMC and our goals for the upcoming year.
During lunch, I visited with this amazing clerk named Joan Kemper. She worked and retired with 34 years with this one city (I am not sure which one), at which time she moved to Bay Village, Ohio. She started working for Bay Village and now she has another 25 years. Your math is correct, she has worked 59 years in municipal government.
Tuesday night was the All-Conference Event at the Jack Hanna/Columbus Zoo. Mary Johnston and I rode the train around the zoo and walked around to see the animals. However, we did not see many animals, probably because of the heat. We ate a picnic dinner under a pavilion down by a lake and watched the beautiful sailboats.
On Thursday morning, Rob Batterson from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources spoke to us about the importance of developing an animal nuisance action plan for your city. I guess Ohio has a problem with coyotes and deer because he focused on the laws regarding the removal of those animals. He showed us different examples of fences (including one that was coated in peanut butter) that can keep deer out of gardens and lawns. I found this session interesting because I do not think we have ever had anyone from the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries come to a Mississippi Training session.
Dustin Diamond from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency spoke about his job – monitoring different social media feeds to look for hazard awareness such as flooding or even active shooters. It was an interesting session, but I have trouble imagining a job where you just sit in a room looking at ten or so monitors and reading Facebook all day long.
After lunch Susan Wilke taught a session on Ethics. She was very interesting and kept everyone’s attention. Some of her points were:
- Conflict of interest is not illegal, acting on it is.
Improper – where the gift is from?
Substantial – what is the gift? May not be illegal, just not a good idea.
Did I accept the substantial gift from the improper source? – Ethics problem
Did the gift change my mind? – Bribery issue
- Public contract – prohibits securing a public contract for self, family or business liaison.
- Grant money equals a public contract and therefore subject to ethics law.
I attended the Annual Banquet on Wednesday night. I had the privilege of speaking to the clerks about “Why do I need to join OMCA and IIMC?” Then I was asked to do the swearing-in of the new officers. This was thoroughly enjoyable. Congratulations to all of the new officers, especially to the new OMCA President, Helen Dunlap.
The highlight of the week is always the awarding of the “Ohio Clerk of the Year” at the Annual Banquet. This year Janice Bates, City Clerk of Tipp City, Ohio earned this huge honor – I am very proud of her and this major accomplishment in her career.
In closing, thank you to the Ohio clerks for making this an unforgettable trip and conference. Congratulations on another successful educational experience. I can truthfully say that I feel like I am a part of the Ohio clerk family and wish them all the very best in their educational and professional pursuits.