After more than 20 years working to help educate elected officials about good government practices, the Local Government Academy is expanding its program to include those thinking about running for office.
Executive Director Susan G. Hockenberry said the organization will hold three-session classes in Butler, Greensburg and Green Tree next month to provide basic information to potential candidates. The nonpartisan classes have been endorsed by political party leaders in Butler, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.
"Sitting elected officials encouraged us to run this class," Ms. Hockenberry said. "We want to avoid any situations where someone is elected and has never been to a public meeting."
The academy, initially championed by the late Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Foerster, conducts more than 35 courses annually that include such subjects as sewage treatment, capital financing and community planning. It initially was limited to Allegheny County but expanded over the years to including neighboring counties.
Its signature class is an extensive course for newly elected officials that runs the gamut from taxation and ethics to dealing with the news media. Officials who have taken that course include state Auditor General Jack Wagner, who attended after he was elected to Pittsburgh City Council.
"Our best champions are our graduates," Ms. Hockenberry said.
Now, it will hold new classes to give potential candidates an overview of how government works.
"This class is about what [a candidate] is getting into," Ms. Hockenberry said. "This is three nights, so we just show them the lay of the land. You don't have to start with all the answers, but we can show you where you can get the answers.
"We're hoping we help with campaigning by having better-informed candidates. You need informed residents, officials and candidates."
The classes, which cost $45, begin Jan. 12 in Greensburg, Jan. 14 in Butler and Jan. 15 in Green Tree and are designed to finish before Feb. 17, the first date candidates can circulate nominating petitions. Class members who become candidates and win their races can apply the $45 fee to the next newly elected officials course that will begin in November 2009.
For more information or to register for the class, call 412-237-3171 or go to the academy Web site, www.localgovernmentacademy.org.
Ed Blazina can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1470.