The National Association of Counties has recognized Harford County with three NACo Achievement Awards for 2017. NACo is a nonprofit organization comprised of over 3,000 U.S. counties dedicated to healthy, vibrant and safe communities. The annual awards recognize innovative county government programs that produce measurable results. This is the second consecutive year that the administration under Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has earned achievement awards from NACo. Last year’s awards were for the planning and zoning activity tracker “Track-it” and the county’s multi-faceted approach to the national heroin crisis.
In 2017, NACo granted awards to Harford County for Harford Streams Summer Adventure, Decisions That Determine Your Destiny, and the County Executive’s Virtual Town Hall Budget Meeting.
Harford Streams Summer Adventure was developed by the county Department of Public Works’ Watershed Protection and Restoration Office to raise public awareness and support for healthy waterways. Citizens in the program visit a variety of local streams, take a selfie photo at each location and upload their photos to the county website to earn a free T-shirt and enter to win other prizes. A dedicated Facebook page and hashtag further promote the program goals on social media. Last year, nearly 1,200 selfies were submitted picturing citizens from newborns to 80 years old (and several happy dogs). Feedback from citizens was overwhelmingly positive, including from lifelong residents who were delighted to discover the beautiful waterways in their own backyard.
Decisions That Determine Your Destiny helps senior citizens and their families prepare important legal documents that guide decision-making in case of critical illness or injury. Developed by the county’s Office on Aging under the Department of Community Services, the program offers free legal assistance drafting documents such as a financial power of attorney, advance medical directive and living will, in partnership with the Harford Bar Foundation. The program offers peace of mind by helping families to avoid disputes and ensure that the wishes of their loved ones are carried out. To date, nearly 700 citizens have participated in the program, with much of the growth in popularity due to word of mouth.
The County Executive’s Virtual Town Hall Budget Meeting increases opportunities for informed citizen engagement in developing the county’s annual budget. Conceived by County Executive Glassman and developed by the county’s offices of Governmental & Community Relations and Information & Communication Technology, the town hall is a combined virtual and live event for citizens to learn about the county budget process and share budget priorities in a public forum without necessarily being physically present. In partnership with Harford Cable Network and Harford Community College, the town hall meeting is held on the college campus where attendees can testify in the traditional sense, while others provide real-time input via social media, email and a dedicated phone line, which is then read aloud by a moderator. The event also streams live on the County website and to 70,000 cable channel subscribers, dramatically expanding opportunities beyond those citizens who can attend a public meeting. This in turn provides valuable input for decision-makers.
“I would like to thank all of the county employees who thought ‘outside the box’ and made these programs possible,” County Executive Glassman said. “I am also proud that my administration has once again been recognized by NACo for developing innovative programs that improve the lives of Harford County citizens.”