Local politicians take leadership lessons at USC

by Merrill Balassone

Originally published at USC News, May 3, 2012

For many local elected officials, political office means solving complex problems with tight budgets while cultivating trust with constituents who increasingly are wary of those in power.

With these challenges in mind, the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy this week will launch its Executive Education Program for local leaders to help elected city officials develop a vision for their cities.

“Our program is yet another way for USC Price to deliver its mission to town squares,” said USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott. “We are committed to translating ideas into innovations that benefit our constituencies, communities, and society as a whole.”

The first class of elected officials includes 18 mayors, mayors pro tem and council members from cities across Southern California.

The two-day program on May 4 and 5 at USC will include classes in leadership, public transparency and ethics, governance and environmental policy. Class sessions will be structured to teach and provide a forum for officials to network and share solutions to common challenges under the guidance of USC Price faculty.

Talks about launching an Executive Education Program at USC Price ]l began in fall 2010, just months after Southern Californians learned of the outsized salaries handed out to public officials in the working-class city of Bell. An extensive probe eventually led to criminal charges against a spate of current and former officials.

“While scandals like Bell are an aberration in local governments, it reminds us all of the need for continuing education for our local leaders,” said Frank Zerunyan, senior fellow and director of Executive Education at USC Price and a Rolling Hills Estates city council member.

“This program addresses a major need on the West Coast,” Zerunyan said. “We’re bringing important policymakers to get an education on cutting-edge and innovative approaches to addressing the most pressing challenges in local governments today.”

The program also includes a separate track for global leaders with a curriculum targeted to the needs of those in government agencies, the private and nonprofit sectors charged with crafting policy in environmental policy, public safety, public ethics, and social innovation.

Next year, the local leaders program will expand to include classes at USC Price in Sacramento.

For more information, visit www.usc.edu/price/exed