During the early 1980s, the coordinators of the Masters of Public Administration programs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas, and Arkansas State University identified a serious trend of management inefficiency and lack of professional development in Arkansas public agencies.
Representatives from these three educational institutions initiated discussions aimed at finding a remedy to help educate managers in Arkansas in the art of being better managers. As the discussions evolved, a remedy was conceived. In 1984, the three institutions founded the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium (APAC) to implement the remedy: the Certified Public Manager program (CPM) and the Arkansas Governmental Manager program (AGM).
APAC’s goal was to use the programs to educate managers in the public and later, the nonprofit sector in the process of developing into better and more professional managers. Arkansas, realizing the great benefit that APAC and the CPM program would bring to the state, agreed to provide base level funding. Startup funding of $15,000 per year was provided by the University of Arkansas Systems Office in 1984-1985 when a FIPSE grant application was denied. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DF&A) picked up continuing base level funding at this level in 1985. DF&A funding was increased in 1986, 1988, and 1999, respectively.
Although this base level funding is targeted towards APAC to support more than one certificate program, CPM continues to be the core program of the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium.
APAC made contact with the National CPM Consortium in 1985. The first class of CPM participants was held in May 1985 with 18 participants. In March 1990, then-Gov. Bill Clinton formally requested active status for the Arkansas Certified Public Manager program. The Arkansas CPM program was accredited in 1991 and re-accredited in 1996, 2001, and again in 2006. Over 500 have received the state level AGM and almost 200 have received the national CPM certification.
In June 2004, Gov. Mike Huckabee sent a letter to the governors of the states that did not offer the CPM Program. In this letter, he emphasized how the CPM Program was such a benefit to the state, and encouraged them to consider developing a CPM Program in their own states, and urged them to contact APAC if they have any questions.
From 2001 until 2005, APAC worked with the Department of Workforce Services to offer a Certified Employment Manager program. The concentration crossed the boundaries of public management and the workforce development management, with extra emphasis on the credentials necessary for the manager to earn NAWDAP certification. NAWDAP recognized this program and endorsed APAC’s program until it developed its on training criteria, and no longer allowed other entities recognition. Arkansas was the last state to hold this recognition.
The Certified Volunteer Manager program, a collaboration between the Arkansas Division of Volunteerism and APAC, has been offering certification in Arkansas since 1986. CVM was the first of its kind in 1986, and continues to serve as a model for the nation. CVM is recognized for the level of professionalism it brings to volunteer management in the state. In 2006, the program saw a milestone, with more than 500 graduates since its inception.
Three organizations value CVM training so highly that they annually provide scholarship funds for CVM training. The DHS Division of Volunteerism, the state AmeriCorps program, Arkansas Volunteer Coordinators Association, all provide scholarship funds to help participants who might otherwise not be able to graduate from CVM.
Several years ago, APAC began providing local government training in a mutual effort with the Arkansas Municipal League, the Arkansas chapter of the American Planning Association, the Association of Arkansas Counties, the Cooperative Extension Service, and others. Also over the past few years, APAC developed relationships with state elected officials and their associations. Four county associations have looked to APAC for continuing education development; the County Judge’s Association, the County Clerks Association, the Circuit Clerks Association, and the County Treasurers Association.
Part of the agreement with the three universities involves the placement of interns. APAC can be asked to develop and provide intern opportunities for MPA program interns from any of the three consortium universities. Over the years, APAC has worked with approximately 25 interns for placements. Recent intern placements have proven to be quite successful, with many remaining with the placement organizations as full time employees, and several others using the experience to acquire other positions within government and nonprofit arenas.