Officials discuss infrastructure, economy at state conference
Annual Ocean City event hosted trade show, info sessions
For county officials, the August calendar orbits around the Maryland Association of Counties’ 2017 Summer Conference in Ocean City. The schedule for the four-day event is packed with workshops, panel discussions and meetings.
Charles County Commissioners’ Vice President Amanda Stewart (D), Commissioner Debra Davis (D) and County Administrator Michael Mallinoff attended this year’s event, which ran from Wednesday, Aug. 16, through Saturday, Aug. 19.
This was Mallinoff’s second year attending the conference. Networking with colleagues, particularly
other county administrators, is a highlight.
“We get to catch up on issues related to the profession and talk a little about ourselves,” Mallinoff said. It’s also an opportunity to plan the fall conference of the National Association of County Executives, which Mallinoff also attends.
One of the sessions that Mallinoff participated in looked at how counties insure their workers’ compensation funds, to see if there were any lessons that would be of value for Charles County. He also attended sessions on economic development, qualified energy conservation bonds and the ways that other Maryland counties are addressing the opioid epidemic in their communities.
“Economic development is a big issue with our county,” Mallinoff said. “We want to bring in more business so that our residents don’t necessarily have to drive into D.C. We are interested in the different ways of bringing in a diversified economy.”
Mallinoff met with the state secretary of transportation to discuss the proposed light rail line along Route 5 from Branch Avenue and interchanges in that same corridor along U.S. 301.
“For me, the conference serves a dual purpose,” said Mallinoff, who served as a municipal administrator before joining the Charles County government. “It’s a way for me to better understand county government and my colleagues, and also to make sure that my county has good representation at the event.”
Stewart has attended the conference every year that she’s been a commissioner. “For me, there are two main benefits to attending the conference,” Stewart said. “The first is networking. It’s an opportunity to meet not only with colleagues across the state, but also with companies and businesses that are there.
“The second is the way that MACo has structured the conferences to offer training and classes that are designed to help local government officials be more successful in their roles. You don’t have to fly across the country to be a better official. MACo has organized their event to help people strengthen themselves in their communities.”
Stewart said that one of the standout events was a panel discussion on employment issues which focused on preferred employment practices and legal restrictions related to hiring, firing, promoting, and disciplining employees.
“That session kept coming up in discussions all throughout the rest of the conference,” Stewart said. “As a county commissioner, it’s one of my responsibilities to ensure that both employees and the county are protected,” she said.
The trade show, which runs throughout the event, is a highlight of the conference and an opportunity to promote the county to businesses. For example, Stewart spoke to representatives of a large company that is considering Charles County as one of the places into which it might expand. “That was my moment to really promote the county and explain why their home should be Charles County,” Stewart said.
A highlight of the trade show for Stewart was the opportunity to talk with representatives of the Maryland System of Libraries. “They got so excited about the county’s mobile library program,” said Stewart, who is on the library board. “They want to come down and see how they did it.”
Stewart added that she appreciated the time that county staff members took to attend the conference as well. “It’s not just about elected officials,” Stewart said. “It’s also for county leaders. We are our best when we can collaborate, network, and learn together.”