Henrico County received 18 Achievement awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo), more than any other Virginia locality this year. The awards were presented at the 2010 NACo annual conference, held July 16-20 in Reno-Washoe County, Nevada.

Visit the National Association of Counties’ Web site

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.


Coordinated Response, Households Facing Economic Crisis: Regional Employment Transition Center
County Manager’s Office

Faced with unprecedented job loses, Henrico County was virtually at ground zero with the closing of Qimonda (a computer chip manufacturer), Circuit City, Land America, and Wachovia Securities.  The County recognized our citizens needed help to weather this economic downturn.  Historically, the Richmond metropolitan area has been closer to 2% unemployment.  Now it is close to 8%.  Henrico County officials convened a meeting of County agencies/departments and representatives from non-profit organizations to explore some sort of triage system for helping households facing economic losses.  This meeting grew into the Households Facing Economic Crisis Task Force.  The Task Force recognized that this was larger than just Henrico County and needed to be a regional coordinated response.  This led to the opening of the Regional Employment Transition Center (The Center) in the former Innsbrook Branch Library donated by Henrico County.  The 17,000 square foot handicapped accessible center provides employment services ranging from filing for unemployment compensation to electronic resume writing to career readiness testing.  Staff from non-profit agencies, local Social Services Departments, and the Virginia Employment Commission provides additional services for the recently unemployed.  Since opening, The Center has experienced 11,148 visits by individuals seeking services.

Automating Vehicle Registration Withholding to Enforce Collection of Taxes in a Timely and Efficient Manner
Department of Finance

Beginning in 1998, Henrico County teamed up with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to begin a manual process entitled Vehicle Registration Withholding (VRW).  This program was used to place a hold (stop) on the renewal of a citizen’s state vehicle registration if he or she owed any delinquent vehicle personal property taxes to the County of Henrico.  This process is more commonly referred to as “placing a VRW stop” on a citizen’s DMV vehicle record.  This award application addresses significant changes made to the program during early 2008, specifically the County’s efforts to accelerate the removal (release) of a DMV stop after the County has received full payment for the unpaid vehicle personal property tax.  Advantages to the County residents come in the form of payment options and efficiency.  Citizens may now choose from one of four payment venues versus the original requirement that they must pay in person and, after posting tax payments, stops are automatically removed within 24 hours.  The full automation of the VRW release process during tax cycle 2008 represents a substantial improvement over the manual process and has been a most valuable aid in the processing of delinquent vehicle personal property taxes for the County, as well as a great benefit to the citizens of the County due to its ease and efficiency.

Reforming the Business Inspection Process
Department of Finance

Within the County of Henrico, the Business Inspection staff is responsible for ensuring the corporate community adheres to both the license and personal property tax regulations. In order to accomplish this task, an extensive field program has evolved to monitor the commercial activities occurring throughout a 245 square mile area. The Inspectors canvass their assigned territories to identify new businesses and issue notices, summons, etc. to precipitate compliance with the tax laws. Over the past few years, this process has been reformed to improve operational efficiency, offer better customer service, and generate sorely needed revenue. Several of the initiatives which have been undertaken include defining each inspector’s territory based on demographic data by zip code; segregating the 25,000 business accounts so that those which do not generate a tax liability are handled by the office support staff; utilization of cell phones in the field to contact businesses in advance to verify they are available to discuss tax issues; and utilization of wireless laptops to access information relevant to filing and payment matters in order to resolve issues while on site. The result of these changes has been truly phenomenal. During 2009, the field revenue generated by the Inspectors rose over 30% to $3M.

SWAM Outreach Collaborative
Department of General Services

In January 2007 the Henrico County Board of Supervisors adopted a Policy for Small, Minority, and Women-owned Business in County Procurement. After hearing from representatives from various business organizations, it became apparent that the County had a need to reach a larger number of the small, women-owned, and minority-owned (SWAM) in the business community to make them aware of the opportunities for doing business with the County. In 2008 the County brought together the procurement offices of the Commonwealth of Virginia, City of Richmond, and Counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, and Henrico as well as several non-profit business resource organizations to work cooperatively to increase the SWAM (small, women-owned, and minority-owned) business community’s awareness of business opportunities and support available to them. The SWAM supplier, local governments, and business resource organizations all benefit from the collaborative efforts. The SWAM suppliers are afforded the opportunity to hear from experts on a variety of business related subjects, meet face-to-face with decision makers from the various local governments, and learn about the variety of business resources that are available in the area. This outreach to the supplier community helps to prepare them to do business with the local governments in a more beneficial manner. The local governments benefit from an increase in the number of suppliers seeking to do business with them and the business resource organizations have the potential of increasing the membership in their organization and/or classes and events offered. All of this has the potential of decreasing the cost for contracted supplies and services.

The Fitness and Wellness Certification
Department of Human Resources

In August 2009, Henrico County implemented a new fitness and wellness initiative – The Fitness and Wellness Certification program. This comprehensive program lays the path for improved health by exposing employees to, and encouraging participation in daily fitness and wellness activities. Employees are assigned to Fitness Trainers who work individually with employees to set goals and design a personal fitness plan. Weekly nutrition classes address healthy eating recommendations, i.e. eating a variety of foods daily, watching portion sizes, choosing “nutrient-dense” foods, tracking food intake, and checking body weight weekly. The results of this initiative were phenomenal. In just 17 weeks, a select group of 72 employees lost a total of 580 pounds and 780 body inches (or 65 feet) and experienced a 14% decrease in heart rate, 27% increase in muscular strength, 35% increase in muscular endurance, 9% increase in flexibility, and 34% improvement in HDL cholesterol. This initiative is yet another example of Henrico County’s commitment to make a difference in the health and well-being of its employees and the workplace by changing individual behaviors and creating effective partnerships to promote a culture of fitness and wellness.

Employee Retention and Enhancement Program
Department of Planning

The employees of the Henrico County Planning Department are the cornerstone of carrying out its mission to provide the highest quality service to the public. Like most places of work, the County strives to hire the best employees, which can be challenging in an increasingly competitive market. Cross-training is also a critical component in managing resources that are becoming more limited in today’s economic climate. In recognition of these challenges, the Planning Department created the Employee Retention and Career Enhancement Program. The program contains the principles and elements of career development plans widely used in professional work environments; however, the goals of the program are more multi-faceted by providing very specific tasks that are not only tailored toward the employee’s interest but also accentuate the skill sets necessary to improve the efficiency and objectives of the department. In turn, the program provides a mechanism for entry and mid-level planning employees to take charge of their careers and advance within the department. The value the program places on its planning staff members embraces their full potential, reduces turnover, provides opportunities for cross-training, and improves customer service efficiency.

Online Development Plan Review System
Department of Planning

Henrico County (Virginia) launched a county-wide initiative to address the efficiency and effectiveness of its development review process. A major result of this initiative was the creation of a modern-day internet application known as the Online Development Plan Review System (https://henrico.us/comments/ ). This system was designed, specifically, to interact with the County’s already established development review tracking software, Tidemark Advantage. The Development Plan Review System has enhanced the overall efficiency of disseminating agency review comments to both internal and external users. It relies on various internal employees throughout the county to populate the program with their respective comments. These comments are then turned into instant e-mail notifications to all other agencies involved, developers/applicants, and interested citizens with links to the posted comments. In addition, the instant e-mail notifications have added a layer of transparency for the development community and the general public who can now better monitor development projects around the county. The implementation of this system has become a true example of how government and the private-sector can work together to solve common problems and enhance service.

Senior Outreach Program, Twin Hickory Area Library
Public Library

In the fall of 2007, the Friends of the Twin Hickory Area Library began collaboration with library staff to offer monthly Senior Programs for residents of assisted living facilities in the area. After two years, this program is still going strong and continues to receive positive feedback from the community. The programs, both entertaining and educational, have included musical performances, travelogues, film screenings, and games. Accomplished by a successful partnership between the Friends of the Twin Hickory Area Library and library staff, the Senior Programs have reached a segment of the Henrico population that was underserved and in need of activities tailored to their interests.

Teacher Cadet Day at Twin Hickory Area Library
Public Library

What kind of county program involves Elvis sideburns, silly-string and bubble machines? The staff at the Twin Hickory Area Library in Henrico County, Virginia recently used all of these materials in a workshop designed to get teens pumped about pursuing a career in education. When the local chapter of Teacher Cadets was seeking space and programming material for their annual meeting, the Twin Hickory Area Library extended its hand. The library not only provided enough space for the crowd of 150 students, but also addressed the students in a 90-minute workshop that motivated them to become excellent future teachers. Chris Holliman, a former teacher turned librarian, led the workshop and energetically gave advice on working with children and books. Holliman captivated the high schoolers with humorous anecdotes from his own time as a teacher as well inspiring them with stories of how teachers have changed lives. The workshop ended with Holliman, wearing Elvis glasses and backed by motivational music, enjoining the audience to take an oath to “teach with passion from this day, to the ending of the world!” He and the staff then sprayed the audience with silly string and bubbles. It was a dynamic finale to a successful partnership between County agencies that greatly benefited area high schoolers.

A Collaborative Action Plan to Protect Children with Allergies in Schools
Henrico County Public Schools

In 2009, a task force of parents who had children with severe allergies identified the need for safety, health, and social improvement within the school setting. The task force and school administrative staff collaborated to create the Management of Severe Allergies Protocol for Henrico County Public Schools. After much communication, the group collaborated to constitute a comprehensive plan that would address these issues, anticipate the needs of those with severe allergies, and facilitate proactive communication in order to avoid potentially fatal outcomes.

A Community Led Approach to Strategic Planning
Henrico County Public Schools

Public input has always been an important component of the long-range, strategic planning process for Henrico County Public Schools. Historically, community members participated in the planning process by providing input after a draft plan had been developed by school district leaders; however, this process did not fully recognize the perspectives and unique experiences of the broader school community. To increase community involvement in early stages of plan development, the school district utilized a community-led strategic planning process, based on the Cambridge Strategic Planning Model, to collaborate with community stakeholders in the creation of the school division’s strategic plan. Community members and other stakeholders were involved in three stages of the process. First, a 30 member Planning Steering Committee, representing a cross-section of the school and community, was assembled to oversee the development of the plan. The Planning Steering Committee was tasked with defining the mission and beliefs of the school division and establishing goals and objectives to guide the organization’s growth. Next, Action Plan teams were created to develop operational plans to meet the established objectives. Action Plan teams consisted of school and community volunteers. Lastly, community members were able to participate in the process by providing input on the plan during public hearings and through an online website. By involving a variety of school stakeholders, a new and higher level of community engagement in the planning process was achieved and resulted in the development of a comprehensive, collaborative division-wide strategic plan based on the values and perspectives of the community.

Bio-Diesel Production: Going Green in High School
Henrico County Public Schools

Students in the power and transportation classes at Varina High School are making bio-diesel fuel from used cooking oil. The cooking oil comes from the kitchens in our schools and concession stands that are operated by the Henrico County Recreation and Parks Department. The bio-diesel fuel will be used to operate lawn care equipment, tractors, and even buses as a cost-saving measure to the school system. Converting the used cooking oil to bio-diesel saves the county the expense of paying a company to dispose of it. After processing the oil, the county gains usable fuel for various pieces of equipment.

EL/Civics Program: A Collaborative Adult Basic Education/English as a Second Language/Citizenship Classroom Environment
Henrico County Public Schools

The goals of the EL/Civics classes were to provide English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students with the academic instruction necessary to transition into a traditional Adult Basic Education (ABE)/GED class and to provide ESOL students with the civics instruction necessary to obtain U.S. citizenship. Research regarding the immigrant population residing in the United States showed that 28.4 million immigrants are currently living in the U.S. (2000 U.S. Census Bureau), which represents 10% of the total U.S. population. Of this population, 570,279 live in Virginia, with 25,322 (4.4%) of the Virginia population living in Henrico County. By 2010, the expectation is that 43 million, or 13.5% of the U.S. population, will be foreign-born. It is estimated that of the total ESOL population in the United States, approximately half of these adults have nine years or less of education, and 64% do not have a high school degree. These statistics raised a red flag and indicated that a different approach may be necessary to address the needs of a specific sector of the adult ESOL population so they may succeed in attaining a GED credential and U.S. citizenship.

Harmony Park
Henrico County Public Schools

Colonial Trail Elementary School is home to Virginia’s first Outdoor Musical Classroom, called Harmony Park. It is located on the campus of Colonial Trail in a two acre, park-like setting, and offers a variety of handcrafted musical instruments. These weatherproof instruments, which are stabilized in concrete, are arranged in a circular formation so the children can face each other and the music teacher during music lessons as well as during improvisational play. There is no sheet music required, or special training. The instruments naturally inspire beautiful, harmonious music. The Freenotes collection of instruments represents the cultural synthesis of a global community as expressed through music. The pitched metal chimes, Imbarimba, and Pegasus instruments selected are rooted in the Indonesian gamelan tradition. The wooden Amadinda, marimbas, and xylophone-type instruments originate in South African tradition. Bridging these cultural sounds are the drums, which span every inhabited continent. It is Colonial Trail’s mission to teach the whole child. We want our children to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. We believe Harmony Park allows students to experience the joys of instrumental music and learn about other world cultures through music. Our intention is to also invite other school groups, community organizations, and musical artists to visit the school campus to experience Harmony Park. Through Harmony Park, faculty and staff will be able to creatively integrate core curriculum subjects from science to language arts with music. During recess, students will regularly have opportunities to experience free play in Harmony Park. We welcomed participation from our business community, PTA, and a local organization called Partners in the Arts to fund this innovative project.

Mock Interviews: Community Leaders Preparing Teens for Tomorrow
Henrico County Public Schools

The Mock Interview Program in Henrico County is a thriving collaborative effort among the Henrico Education Foundation (HEF), the Henrico Business Council, and the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) division of the Career and Technical Education department in Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS). The program has afforded nearly 350 juniors and seniors at Tucker, Henrico, and Varina High Schools the opportunity to improve their career preparation and job interview skills with community business leaders. In return, 100 community leaders have benefited from participating in the educational process by sharing their business expertise with young people who soon will be entering the work force. The program has grown over the past three years from one school site to three due to the success of the program.

Pandemic Influenza: A Community Approach to Prevention
Henrico County Public Schools

The pandemic H1N1/2009 virus threatened all citizens of Henrico County, Virginia and nations around the world. This pandemic proved to be of greatest risk to our most vulnerable citizens, those aged 6 months to 24 years. Henrico County, in conjunction with many community leaders, worked to ensure access to every school-aged child within Henrico. At the peak of the outbreak, a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine endangered the efforts of the program. This shortage did not deter the leaders involved. The stakeholders continued to collect the necessary paperwork and made plans for the clinics to be held once the needed vaccines were available. The overall goal of Henrico County in partnership with the community was to protect our citizens from pandemic H1N1/2009. This goal was achieved. Overall, 50% of the school-aged population was vaccinated, 44% within the school-based clinics. The experience exemplified effective collaboration between governments, even in the time of crisis.

The CTE Showcase Expo: A Look into Your Future
Henrico County Public Schools

The purpose of the CTE Showcase Expo was to provide students with an opportunity to start thinking about future careers while gaining insight to the programs offered in Career and Technical Education that would best prepare them. Parents, students, and the community were invited to participate in a day-long extravaganza where there were over 75 exhibits with demonstrations, guest speakers, and hands-on projects for students and guests. Fire, police, health services, military, business, and industry partners were on hand to discuss career opportunities with all of our students and parents. There was also a representative from the Governor’s office to explain and help navigate the Virginia website, www.vawizard.org. High school counselors were also present to work with students and parents in developing a “career plan.”

Social Services Web-Base Case Management and Appointment Scheduler Systems
Department of Social Services

The Human Services Division of Henrico Social Services Department is responsible for the accurate determinations, renewals, and timely issuance of benefits to the citizens who seek our programs. In order to meet state and federal mandates, the ability to track applications and renewals and provide timely appointments is paramount. In partnership with the County’s Department of Information Technology, two new systems were developed and implemented to enhance staff productivity and to provide improved services to the clientele served through social services. The social services system in the Commonwealth of Virginia is state supervised and locally administered. The County is held accountable for the expenditure of funds in the administration of all programs by state and federal regulations. In order to meet this mandate, the agency required a reliable web-based data management system and appointment scheduler to ensure the integrity of the workload process for timely and accurate determinations. The partnership and coordination of two of the County’s largest departments in crafting and implementing major process improvements were evidenced by the utilization of county staff from both agencies. The collaboration between the Departments of Social Services and Information Technology resulted in a user-friendly web-based system for workload management, allowing the retirement of a legacy system that was limited by outdated technology and software design. Implementation of the Appointment Scheduler alleviated a crowded lobby and long waits outside of the building for clientele. These systems were developed in-house to include implementation and training with minimal assistance from an outside consultant during the data migration phase. The in-house implementation produced a cost effective solution for the County, Social Services, and Information Technology.

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