What is a Certified Public Official?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 May 2020
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In establishing an ongoing and consistent way of maintaining local and state level government, it is important that both elected and appointed officials be legally recognized and empowered to perform their duties. In order to confer the powers and responsibilities associated with the office that the individual has either won by public election or been appointed to by someone in authority to do so, the new officer must be certified. Once this has been done, the individual is now a properly recognized certified public official.

The process for moving from appointee or elected officer to that of certified public official will vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another. In some localities, an authority known as a certified public official coordinator is responsible for establishing and maintaining education and training programs that are used in the certification process. In the United States, programs of this nature have become more common as state, county, and even city governments have become responsible for functions that were once the province of the federal government.

The idea behind the CPO training program is to ensure all persons who are to function as certified public officials understand fully the scope of their responsibilities, as defined by the jurisdiction where he or she will serve. Often, the programs will also contain general leadership learning modules, information on communication lines as they exist within the jurisdiction, and other details that will help the new official to be amply prepared to carry out his or her duties competently.

Whether this program must be completed before the individual actually takes office will also vary from one jurisdiction to another. In some cases, swearing in to office may take place first, with the training conducted over the first months of the new term. In a few jurisdictions, successful completion of the program may be required before the individual takes control of the position.

A certified public official is usually responsible to other persons within the hierarchy, as well as the voting constituency for the jurisdiction. In order to make sure the lines of communication are open, the certified public official may seek the support of key community leaders as a way to keep the public abreast of what is happening with their area of responsibility. This type of open communication is an excellent way for a CPO to solicit volunteers from the wider community to help with some functions that do not require access to confidential information.

As more and more responsibilities for government programs are turned over to state and county officials, the need for a certified public official in each major office within the jurisdiction becomes more apparent. For more information about the structure and content of the CPO program in your state, check with your certified public official coordinator at state level, or with the county commission in your local county. As a citizen, you have the right to know what type of training and expectations are part of the responsibilities entrusted to your elected and appointed government officials.

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