Gulfport Saves Time on Agenda and Meeting Management with CivicClerk
The City of Gulfport, Mississippi, nestled along the Gulf of Mexico, is known for its outstandingly beautiful coast, and for being the type of community where families want to raise their children and citizens want to take part in the public dialogue. With a population of approximately 72,000 residents, Gulfport, Mississippi’s administration includes a seven-member board elected every four years that operates under a Mayor-Council form of government. Ronda Cole, the Clerk of Council, has been in her role with the city for over 16 years. Recently, she has been instrumental in the process of upgrading the city’s digital agenda and meeting management capabilities with the implementation of the robust CivicClerk® software solution.
Before its transition to CivicClerk, the City of Gulfport was utilizing an automated agenda management system. It had been using the software for four years, but the tools were not meeting the city’s financial needs.
“We still wanted an automated agenda solution, but we wanted to find cost savings without giving up the features we were using,” remembers Cole. “I began to research over a six-month period and found CivicClerk, formerly BoardSync. It fit our needs. We liked the idea of still having an automated agenda system, but with CivicClerk we were also able to expand our available features and not spend as much money as we were spending for just agenda functionality.”
With CivicClerk, the City of Gulfport would be able to benefit from such features as live video streaming, so the City decided to make the transition.
Protecting and Optimizing Data During Implementation
For the City of Gulfport, a community that has made significant efforts to ensure transparency and convenient access to agendas and meeting minutes, the risk of losing or duplicating files during a software conversion was a real concern.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning about the conversion,” recalls Cole. “I didn’t want there to be four or five different versions of our materials out there. I wanted to incorporate all our previous materials in our new CivicClerk agenda management system going back to when we first went paperless, which was in 2010. Our CivicClerk implementation team assured me that they would incorporate all our existing content into our new solution. They walked me through each step of the process. The support I received was phenomenal.”
CivicClerk is designed with an understanding that important agenda and meeting materials must be protected during system conversions, and that the content stored within an agenda and meeting management system does not only impact clerks—it is needed by all municipal departments and the public. With the importance of implementation accuracy in mind, over 15,000 files were imported during the City of Gulfport’s CivicClerk implementation. Field-level data was exported from the City’s previous software, indexed for keywords, and imported into CivicClerk.
According to Cole, the City of Gulfport’s CivicClerk agenda and meeting management solution was configured precisely to fit its needs.
“CivicClerk set up templates for us to use and was able to change, add, and configure features to fit what my board wanted.”
Training for Ongoing Success
When asked about the training she received on the CivicClerk system, and her board members’ adoption of the software, Cole described CivicClerk as intuitive and easy-to-use.
“The training was seamless. Personally, I was not nervous about starting to use CivicClerk, but I know people can be uncomfortable with change, so we held three different live training sessions for the different departments that would be heavily using the system. Everyone could choose the training session that fit their schedule. Every employee who left the training session felt like, ‘I can do that. It’s easy.’”
According to Cole, since the implementation of CivicClerk, all the feedback she has received about the City’s more robust, and more affordable agenda and meeting management solution has been positive.
“We’ve only had positive feedback about CivicClerk. Everyone is so comfortable with its features and functionality. Nothing is extremely hard. It’s user-friendly. With the administrative training I received, I can answer any questions. I can also reset passwords and add users, which I like, rather than having to call a vendor for every little thing.”
Not only are the City’s staff enjoying the convenience and usability of the CivicClerk system, but it is also helping the City to meet its citizens’ transparency expectations.
“We have received all positive feedback from our citizens,” said Cole. “With our previous system, the full agenda packet and all the supporting documentation was not available to our citizens. Now, with CivicClerk, we can put everything online, unless it was from an executive session or contains confidential information. Now our citizens can go online to see everything our board and our mayor have provided for meetings.”
According to Cole, with the ability for citizens to watch live and recorded videos of meetings, and access transparency documents on demand, more citizens are engaging with the City’s activities, and they are doing it when and where it is convenient for them.
“Our boardroom was always full for every council meeting, but now our citizens are utilizing the live streaming feature. They like having the ability to watch proceedings from home, and our employees like to watch the live stream too. The versatility that CivicClerk offers to be able to have that recording online and go back and refer to it if needed has been great.”
The Future of the Clerk Role
During her sixteen plus years with the City of Gulfport, Cole has seen an evolution and a digital transformation in her role as Clerk of Council.
“The role of the clerk has become more strategic,” said Cole. “When I started in the City everything was manual. We had big 50-pound minute books that we would have to run everything through, or manually search. As technology has changed, we have had to change with it to meet the demands of our citizens and elected officials. I have a progressive board whose members want to make things easier for themselves and their citizens. They are committed to staying up-to-date on new technology. What I like about CivicClerk is that when new features become available, we are kept informed so that we can benefit from the latest technology features that will help make our jobs easier.”
For more information on CivicClerk, and how it can help your community to streamline its agenda and meeting management processes, while offering more interactive functionality to citizens and board members, click below to sign up for a demonstration.