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Guiding Local Governments Through a Pandemic

From whether to keep the courthouse open to where to source masks, local governments were scrambling in the initial pandemic upheaval. So officials across Indiana turned to a source they already relied on for unbiased, research-based and timely information.

Purdue Extension’s On Local Government is a resource for elected officials and community leaders in large cities and small towns alike. Through its website, webinars and regional programs, the program focuses on legislative and financial issues that impact local government.

On Local Government also quickly became a clearinghouse for materials to help local governments function during the pandemic. “We realized pretty early on our local governments were hungry for information on how the pandemic would impact their operations and economics,” says Tamara Ogle, Purdue Extension Community Development Regional Educator.

“In the beginning stages of the public health emergency, we needed to know how to keep our employees safe while interacting with the public,” says Debbie Driskell, Delaware Township Trustee in Hamilton County and executive director of the Indiana Township Association (ITA).

With the help of five organizational partners — Driskell’s ITA, the Indiana Library Federation, Indiana School Boards Association, Accelerate Indiana Municipalities and Association of Indiana Counties — On Local Government became a hub of educational resources for local governments working to keep their communities healthy, safe and well-informed.

“Purdue Extension has the infrastructure to do a whole lot of things that units of government couldn’t do on their own,” Driskell notes. One of those was to facilitate virtual regional roundtables that brought together local officials — mayors, school superintendents, city council members, county commissioners and others — to share problems and solutions. As many as 30 people from eastern counties accepted invitations to attend discussions co-led by Cheri Brown, Blackford County Extension Director and Area 7 Director Molly Hunt.

“Extension is education, number one, and that was a time when our communities desperately wanted to learn,” Brown says.

“We brought information to each of those conversations from On Local Government; then came the sharing,” she adds. “Everyone had questions, but some people were finding answers. It took on a life of its own because everyone there was a resource."

“We really used the power of community.”


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