Begun in 1970, the annual National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Achievement Award Program is a non-competitive awards program which seeks to recognize innovative county government programs called County Model Programs. Created as a part of NACo’s New County, USA Campaign, the Achievement Award Program continues to embody the grassroots and local government energy the program was designed to promote. The main emphasis of the New County, USA campaign was to modernize and streamline county government and to increase its services to its citizens, goals that are still the main emphasis of the Achievement Award Program today.

County governments across the country, working alone and in cooperation with other governments at the municipal, state and national levels, continue to develop innovative and successful programs in a wide range of service areas, including arts and historic preservation, children and youth, community and economic development, corrections, county administration, emergency management, environmental protection, health, human services, libraries, parks and recreation, transportation, volunteers and much more. The Achievement Awards Program gives national recognition to county accomplishments, and has enabled NACo to build a storehouse of county success stories that can be passed on to other counties.

This year, Henrico County is proud to note that it has been recognized by NACo with 13 Achievement Awards.


List of Award Winners

1. Commercial Assistance Program

The Commercial Assistance Program was implemented in 2002 as a result of Henrico County’s 2001 Comprehensive Revitalization Strategy. Like so many other localities, Henrico County has several older commercial areas that are experiencing increasing commercial vacancies, physical obsolescence, changing markets, inadequate infrastructure, and declining visual appeal. The Commercial Assistance Program was developed to facilitate the rehabilitation and revitalization of these areas. Several enhancement activities are provided through the Commercial Assistance Program. These activities include the preparation and implementation of commercial corridor plans, coordination and planning for infrastructure improvements, facilitation of commercial/industrial rehabilitation grants, design assistance for building façade improvements, and the designation of Enterprise Zone corridors. These activities, among others, are designed to carry out the goals and objectives of the Commercial Assistance Program. The program is coordinated by the Department of Community Revitalization. The staff collaborates with key County agencies as well as business associations and community groups. The collaboration of these groups generates the concepts, goals, and tools that make up the Commercial Assistance Program.

Agency: Department of Community Revitalization

Contact Us: Department of Community Revitalization

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2. Fire Prevention Associate Program

A key component to fire prevention and life safety is compliance with local fire codes and ordinances in order to protect lives and property. The goal of this eight-hour program is to increase awareness of fire prevention and safety through education to the business community. Attendees are instructed in fire department structure and operations, fire code development, and the local process for enforcement of the fire code. Utilizing lecture techniques and photographs of real violations encountered during inspections, the attendees gain insight into the types of common hazards found by fire inspectors during a business inspection. The program also discusses emergency planning and evacuation strategies that the attendee can implement in their day-to-day operations. All attendees are given a homework assignment that instructs them in completing a “fire prevention inspection” of their business. Once completed, the homework is sent back to the instructor who issues the attendee a certificate and a window/door decal representing their support of the Fire Prevention Associate Program. Overall this program assists the business owners and operators in maintaining a safe work environment for their employees and customers.

Agency: Division of Fire

Contact Us: Division of Fire

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3. Intellectual Capital: The Power of Knowledge Transfer

Henrico County has spent many years promoting individualized learning plans, leadership development, and succession management within its organization. These programs have been highly successful internally and have been noticed, rewarded, and emulated across the country. However in 2003, Henrico County began to see a potentially negative impact of its own success. Were employees too focused on their own development” Were they sharing the knowledge they had gained through years of experience, hours of training classes, and numerous experiential activities” Research shows that 70% of an organization’s knowledge resides solely in the minds of its employees. Henrico County was faced with a dilemma. How do you get people to be willing to share the knowledge they possess, especially as they move higher up the ranks” The Department of Human Resources decided to tackle this issue before it became a problem. They surveyed supervisors and managers to identify their areas of expertise and then provided them with training on how to share their knowledge with others. Utilizing panel discussions, leadership book clubs, and specialized training for upper managers, the County created “communities of practice” where knowledge could be shared through dialogue and discussion. One of the most successful components of this intellectual capital initiative was the County Manager himself modeling the importance of knowledge sharing through training sessions entitled, “Conversations with the County Manager”.

Agency: Human Resources Department

Contact Us: Human Resources


4. Field Training Officers: Preparing Public Safety Leaders

As a nationally accredited law enforcement agency, the Henrico County Division of Police takes very seriously its mission to provide quality service to its citizens and community through honor, professionalism, commitment, compassion, and accountability. One of the best ways for officers to embody these values and gain the essential technical skills needed to serve the community is to learn them early in their careers from more seasoned veterans. Partnering with the Department of Human Resources, the Division of Police embarked on an initiative to revise the Field Training Program to ensure that these experienced public safety leaders are carefully selected and adequately prepared to assist new officers in the transition from classroom training to practical on-the-job experience. This highly-successful initiative focused on a thorough selection process, extensive leadership training, a Field Training Coordinator dedicated to overseeing this critical function, and enhanced means of communication. These communication changes included an automated reporting system, a quarterly newsletter, and a Field Training Officer Advisory Board. The results have been phenomenal. Not only are new police officers better prepared to serve the community, but Field Training Officers are also willingly sharing their expertise with others while continuing to develop professionally themselves.

Agency: Human Resources Department and Division of Police

Contact Us: Department of Human Resources and Division of Police

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5.Employer Advisory Council — A Partnership That Works

The goal of employment programs for persons with mental illness and mental retardation is to provide an opportunity for a wide range of employment options for these workers; therefore, Henrico Area Mental Health & Retardation Services must build a network of community businesses that are willing to employ persons with disabilities. The Employer Advisory Council was developed to assist Henrico staff with this goal. The Employer Advisory Council brought together Henrico County employees with area business staff. These businessmen and women provided guidance and advice for building an employment community for persons with disabilities. The Council offered advice regarding how to approach potential employers, how to educate them about stigmas attached to persons with disabilities and their ability to work, and how to use limited marketing dollars to the greatest benefit toward this effort. The information provided by this group has assisted in expanding the number of companies that employ Henrico County citizens with disabilities. This partnership culminated in a celebration to recognize employers that appreciate the skills and abilities that persons with disabilities bring to their businesses by either employing them at their business site or using the contract services at one of the Henrico County workshop facilities.

Agency: Henrico Area Mental Health & Retardation Services

Contact Us: Henrico Area Mental Health & Retardation Services

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6. Internship Program

The Henrico County Planning Department has long recognized the need for a mechanism to identify capable students in university planning programs who could be contributors to the County’s planning efforts upon graduation. The Department has also identified a need to better equip planning students with a basic skill set that will allow them to make immediate contributions to the Department and profession without significant amounts of additional training and supervision upon their hiring. In order to address these two needs, and in an effort to contribute back to the planning profession in general, the Henrico County Planning Department has begun two internship programs aimed at identifying promising students in both undergraduate and graduate level planning programs who may be potential employees upon completion of their studies. The programs are further aimed at assisting the academic community in preparing students who are ready to join the ranks of the practicing planning professionals upon their graduation by identifying the skills and techniques that are most needed by municipal planning departments — skills that many students who are graduating from university planning programs appear to be lacking.

Agency: Planning Department

Contact Us: Planning Department

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7. Suspect Apprehension Team

On June 2, 2004 the County of Henrico Division of Police created the Suspect Apprehension Team (SAT). The six-member team was predicated on the idea that locating, apprehending and processing known criminals in an efficient and systematic manner would yield significant results and save time, effort and money for the Agency. The restructuring put all the personnel involved in the warrant service process together in a cohesive group and eliminated duplication of efforts. All six members and their Sergeant were tasked with working closely with all neighboring jurisdictions and the United States Marshals Capital Area Regional Task Force, allowing them to track and apprehend our wanted criminals in other jurisdictions when necessary. The Team was placed under the auspices of another newly created component entitled the Court Relations Unit. It included all the personnel processing and identifying our arrested subjects, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office Liaison (a police investigator), and the Court Liaison Officer (a police officer). With the leadership of a police lieutenant this unit became a catalyst to correct procedural and bureaucratic issues that were slowing the system down, causing confusion, and consuming unnecessary manpower. The Division of Police added a seventh officer to the team in July of 2005 in order to make use of the SAT to consolidate the process by which all criminal extraditions were accomplished. This provided a significant cost savings for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the County of Henrico, it decreased the time required to bring our criminals back for justice, and it created a well-organized systematic approach to the entire process that also ensured our professional image around the Country. The Unit resides inside the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office where Sheriff Michael L. Wade provides office space and access as needed for our operations. This allows us to work in partnership with the Sheriff’s Deputies in the same facility the criminals are housed in.

Agency: Division of Police

Contact Us: Division of Police

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8. Book Links

The County of Henrico Public Library developed a unique outreach program to target the elementary school with the lowest participation in the library’s 2004 summer reading program. The neighborhood around the elementary school was an area that did not use the public library regularly. Children’s services staff members visited the school with a variety of motivating activities aimed at exciting these students about books and reading. The goal of this program was to increase participation in the 2005 summer reading program.

Agency: Public Library

Contact Us: Public Library

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9. Library Mobile Computer Lab

County of Henrico Public Library developed a flexible method to formally instruct computer skills to the public with laptop computers within libraries with no dedicated computer classroom limited space. The Mobile Computer Lab (MCL) is composed of nine laptops, each with Internet access, Windows XP, and Office 2003. The MCL allows hands-on computer instruction for the public at seven library branches. This ‘classroom to go’ enables the library to provide technology instruction to a greater number of individuals countywide. While the primary use has been for basic computer classes, the MCL has also been flexibly utilized for other library programs and staff training as well. During 2005, nearly 60 MCL classes have been offered. The classes offered with the MCL provide hands-on practice for a variety of computer topics. The classes taught are “Basic Computer Literacy,” “Getting Started on the Web,” “Introduction to Word,” “Introduction to Excel,” “Excel Charts and Formulas,” “Practical Excel,” and “Getting the Most from your Library Catalog.

Agency: Public Library

Contact Us: Public Library

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10. Outreach Pizza & Pages’ Teen Book Group

Since 2003, The County of Henrico Public Library has successfully offered “Outreach Pizza & Pages” Teen Book Group book discussions/pizza parties to library users in grades 6-12. Recognizing the importance of the Library’s role in promoting the recreational and social aspects of reading to underserved populations in the community, a county library offered this program, both at the library and off-site, to at-risk young adults participating in Henrico County’s afterschool CONNECT program.

Agency: Public Library

Contact Us: Public Library

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11. Crash Avoidance Range

The safety, education and preparation of our young people are priorities of Henrico County Public Schools and Henrico Police. Driving emergencies will occur. How drivers handle the car during that critical one or two-second interval of decision-making may determine involvement in a crash or crash avoidance. The Crash Avoidance Range, or C.A.R. Course, is designed for students to perform crash avoidance skills in cars with specially trained Henrico County Public Schools driver education teachers. These vehicles are equipped with instructor brakes, ABS braking systems and air bags. Henrico Police participate by reinforcing the skills, legal knowledge and system operations necessary to operate a motor vehicle safely and effectively. Students enrolled in HCPS driver education courses are eligible to participate in the course, which is divided into four stations: Skid Detection and Recovery, Off Road Recovery, ABS Braking Distance and Getting to Know Your Car. Students participating in the course will receive one hour of credit towards the three-hour, on-road driver education requirement. The course is provided at the Richmond Capital Airport facility within the Air National Guard complex in Sandston, Virginia. It is open only to Henrico County Public Schools students.

 

Agency: Henrico County Public Schools

Contact Us: Henrico County Schools

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12. ESL Welcome Center

The ESL Welcome Center is a wonderful place that welcomes our English as a Second Language families new to Henrico County Public Schools. Registration can be a challenge for families and administration. Instead of the traditional process of parents visiting their neighborhood school and, perhaps, struggling with language and cultural differences, the ESL Welcome Center is centrally located at Tucker High School and families from all over the county are welcome to complete the enrollment process with the multilingual staff. All documentation for enrollment in the school system such as birth certificate, immunization records and prior report cards are reviewed. In addition, a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s English language skills is held to determine his/her proficiency level. The information gathered is sent directly to the child’s school administration. The school arranges class schedules and provides academic support. The ESL Welcome Center also has the resources on hand to help parents with interpretation/translation services, healthcare, childcare and adult education.

Agency: Henrico County Public Schools

Contact Us: Henrico County Schools

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13. S.P.A.C.E. – Students Participating Actively in County Education

S.P.A.C.E., an acronym for Students Participating Actively in County Education, was designed by students and staff in an effort to establish a countywide student legislative body. This innovative program engages 150 student representatives from all Henrico County Public High Schools in dialogue with each other, the Superintendent of Schools, members of the Henrico County School Board, the Director of High School Education, the Educational Specialist for Student Activities and other Central Office staff. Student representatives participate in four meetings per year in which they have the opportunity to identify and take action on issues regarding their school and community. S.P.A.C.E. representatives have a sense of ownership as a result of having an active voice in the process of problem solving, as they not only bring concerns to the administration, but work collaboratively to find solutions to issues relevant to the student body they represent.

Agency: Henrico County Public Schools

Contact Us: Henrico County Schools

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