History

The creation of an institute of government has been part of the Virginia Local Government Management Association's (VLGMA's) strategic plan for over 10 years. The managers envisioned the institute as a resource for tackling an array of problems facing their localities in the 90s.

Problems

  • Virginia governments are operating in an age of increasingly complex technology and advances in knowledge that rapidly make prior experience and skills obsolete.
  • Governments need more training and technical assistance than ever before at a time when they are being forced to do more with less–and to change fundamentally the way they do business.
  • In a 1992 survey of Virginia local government managers, 80% of the respondents said their locality is either moderately or poorly served in the areas of specialized training and technical help.
  • A 1993 survey of local government services through Virginia colleges and universities indicated that many of the centers and institutes offering such services were small, with few financial resources and often narrow, highly specialized programs. None of the institutes had a central technical reference library or any unit that anticipated future issues of importance to local government.
  • Virginia lags far behind its neighboring states in creating an institute that can offer comprehensive training, technical assistance, and research services.
  • The training and technical assistance that is available in Virginia is highly fragmented, of varying quality, and lacks coordination, thus making it difficult for local governments to identify or use.

Proposed Solution

In June 1993, the VLGMA approved a proposal to create an institute of government for Virginia, within a university setting, that would significantly expand the technical assistance, training, and research opportunities for government officials and employees.

The managers were convinced that a general purpose, well-financed institute was a critical step to reinventing government in Virginia and removing the barriers to lean, responsive, high-performance governments.

Founding Coalition

The Virginia Municipal League (VML), the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), and the Local Government Attorneys of Virginia, Inc. (LGA), formed a consortium with VLGMA in order to craft a proposal for the General Assembly. Delegate Mary Christian and Senator Hunter Andrews introduced a bill to create the Institute during the 1994 legislative session.

The new Institute was intended to be a united effort that would draw upon the expertise of all institutions of higher learning and professional and government associations throughout the state.

The key components of the Institute's creation were:

  • the commitment of support by local governments and
  • the patronage of key legislators, particularly Hunter Andrews.

The state legislature appropriated $350,000 per year for the 1994–96 biennium with the understanding that there would local government participation through membership dues. The budget amendment creating the Institute states that the appropriation is to establish and operate "Éthe independent Institute of Government at the University of Virginia Center for Public Service."