Marshall Fire Chief Reggie Cooper recently completed the 18 month Public Manager Certification program through Stephen F. Austin University.
Cooper started the program in January 2019, which he described as a detailed course that outlines all of the ins and outs of public service work.
Seven other graduates will join Cooper in a graduation ceremony for the program this year at the Texas Capitol, though the exact date is current unscheduled due to the capitol being shut down due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
“It really helped me to understand my own position better, as well as the positions of those who are below and above me,” he said.
Cooper said that the program has a number of instructors who are also City Managers, which allows the classes to address real life issues that those in public service face every day.
“I got to see what happens with budgeting, and preparations for city commissioners meetings, and how to run and organize a city,” he said.
Continued education for Marshall city employees is something Cooper said he has felt strong about for a long time, emphasizing its importance to better both employees and the community.
“Every year when our budgets come up that is something I always push for,” Cooper said. “It is important because it helps our employees grow and benefits the community as a whole.”
To end the program Cooper completed a capstone project that he then presented to the class instructors and students, which he titled “Hiring for Excellence: Is There a Need to Change the Approach to Hiring?”
Cooper said that the project focus’ on how when administrators are hiring, they need to focus on the type of person they are hiring and the buy in to the community, along with the individuals credentials.
“There are certain qualifications you need for the state to be hired into these positions, but that is not the only aspect of hiring,” Cooper said.
He explained that without community buy in any public service position will see a high level of turn over, but by focusing on finding employees who care deeply about the community they serve and are invested in it, the retention rate will increase.
By increasing hiring retention cities are able to save money on continuous hiring and retraining processes, as well as retain employees who then can grow to deeply understand the ins and outs of the city they work for.
“It helps the department, it helps out employees and in the end it saves the city money,” Cooper said.
Dr. Richard Herzog, SFA professor of public administration and CPM program director, said Cooper’s research paper would be considered for future publication in the online journal Certified Public Manager Applied Research, which is published and hosted by the SFA Steen Library.
According to Herzog, the CPM curriculum comprises seven courses or tracks that are designed to help build working public administrators’ skills in managing real-world public management challenges. The program entails 175 contact hours of management training and education. Topics covered include personnel administration, managing for quality, public financing and budgeting, productivity and program evaluation, and information systems for managers.
“The nationally accredited program is designed for working professionals seeking to improve their leadership skills and enhance their opportunities for promotion into management positions,” Herzog said.
Cooper said that the program was the best way for anyone interested in public service to continue their education, and he is grateful for the support he has received while he was taking the course.
“I am grateful for my family, my wife and kids, because any time you do anything outside of work it starts to take away from the family time, but they have been very supportive,” Cooper said. “The city, city commission and city manager have also been very great and supportive through this whole process.”