National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

 ‘Smart Justice’ theme announced for 2013 NCGM

By Jim Philipps


NACo President Chris Rodgers recently announced that the April 2013 theme for National County Government Month (NCGM) will be “Smart Justice: Creating Safer Communities.” 

The theme complements one of Rodgers’ NACo presidential initiatives, Smart Justice, which aims to highlight innovative county government justice system policies and practices among the nation’s counties.

Since 1991, NACo has encouraged counties to actively promote county government services and programs, first during National County Government Week. It was later expanded to a monthlong observance.

“I am encouraging counties to link the 2013 theme — “Smart Justice: Creating Safer Communities” — to as many National County Government Month activities as possible,” Rodgers said.  “Counties run the nation’s local justice systems, and National County Government Month is the perfect opportunity for leaders in county government to reach out to communities we serve and educate them about our law enforcement efforts and how our court and jail systems operate.”

Rodgers said counties with innovative programs and services associated with their local justice system should be highlighted under the Smart Justice theme as well, such as pre-trial services, post-release service coordination, justice and mental health collaboration, supportive housing and employment services.

Popular NCGM events include holding public tours of county facilities; talking to students, community organizations and business leaders about county programs and services; holding essay and art contests; and sponsoring county family day events on the courthouse or administrative building grounds. Many counties hold media events, write newspaper columns, or appear on local radio and TV shows to discuss new county programs or highlight existing ones.

NACo is currently developing free media resources to assist counties in celebrating NCGM. The resources will include a comprehensive planning and tips booklet specific to the April 2013 Smart Justice theme as well as a media resources kit which will include digital templates to create your own county’s NCGM buttons, posters, flyers, banners, proclamations and news releases. The templates will be specially designed for the April 2013 “Smart Justice” theme.

The NCGM planning booklet and media resources kit will be available by the end of January. 

A popular feature of NCGM is the NACo National County Government Month Award program. The purpose of the award program, now in its third year, is to encourage counties to participate in NCGM and nationally recognize counties that sponsor outstanding programs during the month of April.

National Association of County Information Officers (NACIO) — a NACo affiliate — will again judge the 2013 award entries.  Contest details will be available in January.

2012 award winners provide glimpse of how counties go ‘all in’ to celebrate NCGM

The 2012 National County Government theme was “Healthy Counties, Healthy Families.”

• Wicomico County, Md. held several community forum presentations around the county hosted by the county executive. These included library events such as “Healthy Cooking, Healthy Families” and health department lunch-and-learn events. The county conducted tours of public works facilities to showcase recycling and methane collection functions and displayed law enforcement and emergency vehicles.

• Eagle County, Colo. hosted a variety of events and activities surrounding its 2012 theme, “Healthy Living in Eagle County.” Events included an Earth Day poster contest; an essay contest for high school students; presentations by Eagle County Public Health and Colorado State University Extension; parade celebrations honoring Week of the Young Child; and a 5k fun run-walk, breakfast and a provider fair. Healthy breakfast foods were donated by local companies. The resource fair featured nearly 30 family-youth service providers from throughout the county, and included free lead screenings for children, car seat checks and CPR-defibrillator training.

• Manatee County, Fla. hosted more than 50 events to focus on five parameters of health including physical, social, behavioral, environmental and economic health. Events included a torch run sponsored by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, a health department farm stand, a knee pain workshop, a horseshoe tournament, many classes and learning opportunities on topics such as water conservation, physical activity, disease prevention and healthy eating, along with several Relay for Life Events.

• Durham County, N.C. hosted a lunchtime health and wellness fair. The health department had a booth about smoking cessation that informed citizens about the county’s upcoming enforcement of a smoking ordinance to create smoke-free zones; Cooperative Extension provided nutrition and 4-H Program booths; 70–80 people including county employees and local college students took part in a “flash mob” to promote healthy movement;  the county manager highlighted a goal of the county strategic plan: Health and Well-being for All; and a nutritionist shared how much movement people should strive to complete each week to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

• El Paso County, Colo. celebrated the “Healthy Counties, Healthy Families” theme with a month-long series of events specifically designed to showcase “good for your health” programs and activities. Events included a third-grade art contest; a free public health education program in partnership with Kaiser Permanente; a household hazardous waste collection day; a family-centered hiking event; a lunch-and-learn program for county employees; a child abuse prevention and child trauma educational event in partnership with Northwestern University; a water stewardship day that included water-consuming invasive plant removal and water-wise garden preparation and a community recycling and cleanup event. A free community health event featured information and healthy local food as well as a feature presentation of a documentary film “Children in Crisis” that focused on the damaging effects of childhood obesity.

• DeKalb County, Ga. hosted in partnership with The Champion newspaper, and the CEO’s Community Hero Awards ceremony honored individuals and organizations making a significant impact in DeKalb County through volunteerism. The county held lunch-and-learn sessions focused on physical, mental or financial health.