County Government Day

April is National County Government Month

On March 21, 2023, the Forest County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution put forth by Chairperson Cindy Gretzinger proclaiming April 2023 as National County Government month.  Each year since 1991 the National Association of Counties has encouraged counties across the country to use this opportunity to increase awareness of county responsibilities, programs, and services to the people it serves.

In Forest County, UW-Extension uses county government month as an opportunity to host County Government Day for local students in the Crandon, Laona and Wabeno school districts.

What is County Government Day?

County Government Day is an opportunity for Forest County youth to connect with County Department Heads and Elected Officials at a day-long workshop at the Forest County Courthouse.   

It is an intentional hands-on opportunity to encourage civic engagement of both adults and youth participating in the program.   

We hope that by participating in County Government Day: 

  • youth will feel more connected to county government. 
  • youth will have a better understanding of the decisions made by county officials on their behalf.  
  • youth be more likely to vote in local elections when they become of age. 

This year’s program was held on Monday, April 17th with 18 youth and 3 local educators participating.  Participants began the day with an introduction to County Government by Chairperson Cindy Gretzinger followed by an interactive board game that introduced youth to the county budgeting process, taxpayer requests, election results and public perception of county board issues. 

After the Board game, youth participated in a hands-on mapping activity that allowed youth to learn how supervisors themselves literally helped shape the county and its supervisor districts over the past 138 years.  Youth also identified their representative on the county board by reviewing this term’s supervisor districts. 

After a tasty lunch provided by Extension, the youth were able to meet Department Heads and tour the Courthouse, Jail and Deer Pen. 

Why Civic Engagement?

Civic engagement is broader than civics education.  Civics education, where we learn how our democracy works, is required coursework in each Wisconsin high school. 

Civic engagement takes it a step further and encourages participation in the process of government by attending meetings, running for office and voting in local, state and federal elections. 

According to the article “Civic Deserts:  America’s Civic Health Challenges” written by M. Atwell, J. Bridgeland and P. Levine, research has shown that students who receive effective civic learning are more likely to vote and discuss politics; four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues;  and more confident in their ability to speak publicly and community with their elected representatives.”  (2017)

At the end of County Government Day, youth were given an opportunity to reflect upon their experience and stated the following:

  • 80% of the students strongly agreed that County Government Day provided them with a greater understanding of county government and how it works.
  • 90% of the students agreed or strongly agreed that they felt better connected to Forest County officials and staff after attending County Government Day.
  • 65% strongly agreed that they had an increased understanding of the decisions that County Government and staff must make.
  • 80% agreed or strongly agreed that their ability to be civically engaged has increased.
  • 90% of the students either agreed or strongly agreed that they are more likely to vote in local elections after participating in county government day.

Youth in Governance Programming

In many Wisconsin counties, UW-Extension staff are engaged in planning not only County Government Day, but also other Youth in Governance programming which includes youth serving on county committees, school board engagement, and on non-profit boards in their community.  Youth in governance programs allow adults to work with youth in authentic and meaningful ways.  Involving youth as co-creators, co-planners, and co-facilitators allows youth the opportunity to develop and practice skills that serve their own positive development and well as contribute to the development of the organization.  If you are involved in a nonprofit organization and would be interested in engaging youth in your planning and/or programming, please contact Michelle at 715-478-7797 to discuss this opportunity to build tomorrow’s leaders today.

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