Martin Luther King Jr. (Virtual) “Day On” :: A Marathon County Government In-Service Learning Day Like No Other

Written by Lance Leonhard

The time is always right to do what is right.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

On January 16, 2021, approximately 300 Marathon County employees came together to participate in our 4th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. “Day On” learning event. And, while this year’s event continued our tradition of delivering high-quality presentations, programs, and workshops on a wide array of topics, the in-service day was dramatically different in one very important way… It was 100% virtual!

MLK Day On Welcome screen capture

The shift to a virtual event, prompted by our commitment to follow COVID-19 precautions and protect the health and well-being of our staff, was accomplished through the dedicated efforts of our planning team and IT staff. I can’t say enough about the work that the team did!

So, let’s recap the event and hear what participants had to say

To ground participants in the value of learning and the extremely important role that we, as public servants, play in our communities, I began by discussing the almost unimaginable focus that Dr. King displayed as he worked tirelessly to combat racial and socio-economic injustice.

In the 11 years preceding his death, it is estimated that King traveled over 6 million miles and delivered over 2,500 speeches. He wrote 5 books. And, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

His sheer will to do all he could to improve the lives of those around him is truly awe-inspiring and set the tone for the day’s work — ensuring that we (both individually and collectively) have the knowledge and skills we need to serve the people of Marathon County.

Tribute to MLK Jr screen capture

The day was packed with 14 presentations on a variety of topics that are in keeping with the mission of our MLK Jr. “Day On” event:

  • Learning About Ourselves
  • Learning About Our Community
  • Learning About New and Innovative Community and Government Services

The session descriptions below give you a sense of the important work that staff tackled throughout the day.

I Don’t See Color

Presenter La’Tanya Campbell provided a great deal of information on topics of diversity and inclusion, exploring the topics of implicit bias and micro-aggressions, while also discussing some of the issues with the narrative “I don’t see color.”

La'Tanya Campbell

“La’Tanya Campbell, in her session, ‘I Don’t See Color,’ taught me the importance of recognizing the whole individual and the error of mistaking equality for equity. One tool I will use going forward is how to apologize properly by acknowledging, admitting responsibility, and making amends.”

— Melinda Osterberg, Marathon and Lincoln County Community Development Educator, UW-Madison Division of Extension

Crucial Conversations

Cover of Crucial ConversationsSocial Services Director Vicki Tylka discussed the key concepts within the acclaimed best-selling book Crucial Conversations (available from the Marathon County Public Library), giving us the foundation from which we can work to productively resolve conflict within our teams. The information that Vicki provided can help you overcome the fear of raising a thorny issue, by giving us the tools we need to approach the situation productively.

 “I’m glad I was able to participate in Vicki’s session on Crucial Conversations. TheDeputy County Administrator Jason Hake concepts and tools she highlighted can help anyone engage in more meaningful, productive conversations…in the workplace and in your daily life.”

— Jason Hake, Deputy County Administrator

Mental Health Stigma Associated With Culture

Difficult Discussions Mental Health Stigma screen capture

Christopher Benny spoke to staff about the powerful impact that the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues has on dissuading people from getting the treatment they need. Christopher’s presentation incorporated research from around the world, while highlighting the important role that each of us, as individuals, play in the mental health of our communities.

1st Amendment Auditors

As government employees, we are committed to performing our work with transparency, while at the same time we are charged with maintaining confidential information related to the most personal of situations. This is tough work.

Michael Puerner, our Deputy Corporation Counsel, taught us about a growing movement of individuals seeking to photograph, film, or audio-record while on public property and in government offices in an apparent attempt to “test” the government’s compliance with the 1st Amendment. Michael gave us the knowledge we need to ensure that we protect the rights of the public to access information and see their government at work, while also ensuring that we protect the confidential information of vulnerable populations — such as crime victims and children — as well as others.

FIrst Amendment Auditors screen capture

“In today’s world, social media is extremely powerful in influencing and shaping opinions. Mike Puerner did a great job explaining the 1st Amendment Audit, who these auditors are, their potential motives, and how to keep your cool while following the rules as a civil servant.”

— Toshia Ranallo, Executive Administrative Specialist,
Marathon County Administration

As I reflect on our 4th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. “Day On” learning event, I can’t help but feel extremely fortunate…

Fortunate to work for such a forward-thinking, value-driven County Board of Supervisors that supported the creation and continuation of this event.

Fortunate to be part of such a talented team of professionals who were able to deliver such a powerful event.

And, fortunate to be part of a community that supports and welcomes our staff and the services that they provide.

“The caliber of the sessions and the degree of participation was simply fabulous. EachMeleesa_Johnson session provided me with information useful to better doing my job and being more thoughtful and deliberate in the way I interact with colleagues and customers. Each question asked by participants demonstrated the sincere depth of interest by all. We are very lucky to work for an organization that invests in its employees and the community in this way.”

— Meleesa Johnson, Marathon County Solid Waste Department Director

If you’re interested in learning more about past MLK Jr. “Day On” in-service trainings, click here to learn about the 2018, 2019, and 2020 events.

And, if you have a topic you think we need to learn more about to better serve our community or you are interested in serving as a speaker during next year’s event, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Lance Leonard - Marathon County Deputy Administrator

Lance Leonhard

Marathon County Administrator

Lance Leonhard began his career in Marathon County Government in the Office of Corporation Counsel. He then served as Deputy Administrator and currently serves as the Marathon County Administrator. Lance’s career in public service has spanned more than a decade, having worked for the federal government as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for the state of Wisconsin as an Assistant District Attorney. Outside of work, you’re likely to find Lance spending time with his family, traveling, teeing off on a local golf course, or sitting around a campfire with friends.  Email Lance Leonhard

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