WIPPS helping county improve communications

The Marathon County Board of Supervisors is moving ahead with a training program that will involve more public participation on critical policy issues.

At a meeting on January 7, Executive Committee supervisors were introduced to the first phase of the Marathon County Public Engagement Project training, presented by Eric Giordano, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service; and Bill Rizzo, local government specialist at the University of Wisconsin Extension Local Government Center. The full county board will be introduced to the training at their informational meeting on January 15.

Designed to foster civic engagement and constructive discussion in the decision-making process, the project will allow the public “to be better served because it will improve communication between the public and its elected officials,” said Deb Hager, Marathon County deputy administrator.

“This is cutting-edge work,” Rizzo said. “Very few municipalities in Wisconsin, large or small, are taking a systematic approach to understanding and adopting best practices to address public engagement.”

The project will train elected officials in tools and processes to help determine how to communicate and involve the public more effectively in policy-making.

“We often hear people say that they do not think their voice matters in policy decisions, and the mechanisms of government do not provide easy access,” Giordano noted. “This program will provide new opportunities for public participation, but will require some training for both elected officials and the public.”

The MCPEP training focuses on building a culture in Marathon County that promotes more effective interaction between the public and elected leaders.

“The goal is for everyone to have good information,” added county board chairman Kurt Gibbs. “This is an opportunity to reduce the need for conflict management in this process.”