By Kristin Schultz
They say hard work pays off and, on May 11, three years of training did indeed pay off for Nicole Salamone as she was recognized with a ceremonial resolution and certificate presentation for having achieved Certified Town Official status — the first in New York state to do so.
The Association of Towns for the State of New York started the Certified Town Official program in its current form in 2014. Its goal is to educate town employees in some of the ins and outs of various town departments so that employees can be more knowledgeable, effectively interact with citizens and provide better customer service.
“It’s really an attestation of one’s training,” said Chris Anderson, director of research and programs at the Association of Towns. “Until this program, there was really no recognition for town officials who put in the time, came to trainings and became professional in their positions.”
Salamone is director of administration in the town supervisor’s office.
To achieve the designation, town employees must complete 33 classes across 11 subject areas. Participants can take as long as they want to complete the program. Class locations are scattered around the state, with the bulk of them offered at the association’s annual training in New York City.
Salamone completed the certification program in three years and finished just ahead of six others from other towns.
“I always want to learn more,” said Salamone. “I don’t just want to come to work, do my job and go home. I love coming to work every day.”
She started working in local government in 2005 as a clerk in the village of Scotia. Six years later, she accepted a position with the town of Niskayuna and hasn’t looked back.
“I love public service and government,” said Salamone. “I like to know the answers. I’m here for the community.”
While some town departments and functions are highly specialized, people who work in other departments may field a variety of questions. It’s for these jacks of all trades that the program can be very helpful.
Among the courses Salamone took was an introduction to small claims class; a session about receiving taxes, which went over both basics and obscure regulations relating to foreign postmarks; and an infrastructure class in which she learned about road-patching methods and processes.
Learning what different departments do and deal with will allow Salamone and other participants to better communicate with both the public and other public officials because the courses introduce learners to specific industry language and jargon.
“We have a common starting language,” she said.
In addition to gaining a better understanding of municipal departments, Salamone appreciated the inevitable networking that occurred as people attended classes together.
“I liked meeting other people from other towns,” she said. “We talked and shared ideas.”
Salamone entered the program at the urging of the former town planner, Kathy Matern. At the recognition ceremony on May 11, she credited both Matern and town Supervisor Joe Landry with providing the encouragement she needed to complete the program.
Now that she has attained the certification, Salamone is required to take additional classes to stay certified — a requirement she intends to meet. “I will keep it up, absolutely.”
She is also quick to recommend the program, saying it would benefit anyone in any position in government — “from accounting to front desk personnel.”
“I’m better equipped to help,” Salamone said. “I am better at my job and can more effectively help people who stop into the office. To be the first in the state to achieve this is an honor.”