(WFXR) — Several localities in southwest and central Virginia were named as 2022 Achievement Award recipients for government excellence by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo).

According to officials, the Achievement Awards is a competitive VACo program created to recognize excellence in local government, that is open to government members of the association. This year, 29 localities were selected from 100 submissions.

“I want to thank all who participated in the 20th year of the Achievement Awards,” VACo Executive Director Dean Lynch said. “This is an anniversary year, and I was encouraged to see that we had 100 submissions, our third-highest total ever. This tells me that the VACo Achievement Awards program’s mission of identifying and celebrating the innovative work by local government officials continues to resonate with our counties.”

Campbell County was reportedly recognized for its Campbell LEADS Leadership Development program, an internal staff development program that was created with a people-driven value model.

According to Campbell County, it is known for its “dedication to professional development and ongoing cultivation of leadership skills in employees.”

Officials say Campbell LEADS was created to train leaders and managers on county-specific issues and situations for three hours a month over an eight-month period. The county developed the program after spending years sending employees for week-long outside training sessions and realizing they weren’t getting the specific training needed daily in Campbell County.

The program reportedly began in September 2021 with 10 employees and focused on budgeting, conflict management, leading through change, community needs, and more. In addition to the program being more beneficial, it was also the same price as it had previously been to send two employees to the external training.

“This program is the brainchild of Jordan Welborn and Sherry Harding,” said Campbell County Administrator Frank Rogers. “It is a local leadership curriculum put in place to facilitate continued leadership development for key individuals in all departments and at all levels of our organization—recognizing that leadership is not a position on an org chart, but a behavior in an organization.”

The county says a VACo representative will appear at October’s Board of Supervisors meeting to present the award.

According to the VACo, other award-winning localities from southwest and central Virginia include Botetourt County for Botetourt Fire & EMS Agency of the Year; Franklin County, Henry County, and Patrick County for Blue Ridge Fire & EMS Academy; Montgomery County for its Return to Home program; Pulaski County for its “Innovative Solution to Human Capital Shortage“; and Wythe County for its “Lot 24: Blue Star NBR and Blue Star Manufacturing.

Some of those localities shared statements with WFXR News on Monday, Aug. 8 about their awards:

Botetourt Fire & EMS was nominated for the VACo award because of their recent accomplishment of being recognized as the 2021 EMS Agency of the Year by the Governor’s Office and for their work during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  During the pandemic, the department launched the “Boost Botetourt” Campaign which brought COVID19 vaccines to the homes of those most vulnerable.  Botetourt Fire & EMS is one of the most community minded departments in Virginia and is focused on providing top notch pre-hospital care and they continue to evolve as one of the leading departments in the region.

Statement released on Aug. 8, 2022 by Botetourt County

BRFEA [Blue Ridge Fire & EMS Academy] was formed in 2021 through a partnership between the Henry County Department of Public Safety and the Franklin County Department of Public Safety. The academy was created to address the dwindling number of trained emergency response personnel in each locality.

“It is an honor to have been selected by VACo for this outstanding achievement in regional cooperation,” said Matt Tatum, Director of Henry County Public Safety. “While the academy may have begun out of the necessity to fill critical positions, it has quickly developed into a model for multi-jurisdictional collaboration to produce quality training for first responders in rural localities.”

The partnership calls for each agency to cover any specific cost related to their recruits and the instruction staffing is shared proportionately between the jurisdictions participating. The model also allows partner jurisdictions to join in the future to fill personnel shortages. Patrick County chose to participate in the second academy which began on May 2, 2022.

“The fact that the program is growing in its second year is a testament to the dedicated leadership of each of the participating departments and it really speaks to the benefits of strong partnerships,” said J.R. Powell, Deputy County Administrator of Henry County. “Undoubtedly, the first academy class had its hurdles to overcome by coordinating in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic but that adversity made the academy staff and recruits resilient as a team and benefited the communities at large.”

One benefit of the program is the division of instructional responsibilities amongst departments with existing robust training regiments. During the first academy, Franklin County took the lead on firefighter training while Henry County was in charge of the emergency medical services training portion.

Statement released on Aug. 8, 2022 by Henry County