SUGAR HILL -- In his eighth year of work to distinguish Sugar Hill among Georgia's 500-plus cities, Monday night's city council meeting was an opportunity for Marc Cohen to enjoy distinction himself.
The councilman was recognized by the Georgia Municipal Association for having taken 204 hours of leadership training, putting him among only 20 active council members in Georgia to have done so. In addition to the six hours of state-required leadership training for newly elected officials, Cohen has taken more than 35 additional courses, as well as attended the Robert Knox Municipal Leadership Institute.
The GMA, which educates in cooperation with University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, sent Communications Director Al Outland to award Cohen a plaque at Monday's meeting.
"What distinguishes Marc is that he's really stuck to (training)," Outland said. "He wanted to acquire a knowledge base to be effective in his city. Sitting through six-hour courses is a pretty personal commitment. He's continually made the time to better himself."
Cohen most recently took courses at the GMA convention in June in Savannah, among the more recognizable places he's been for training.
"I've gone to places I didn't even know existed," Cohen said of city-funded training in spots including Tifton, Dublin and Blairsville.
"Regardless of how large or small a city is, we all have same issues, just to a different magnitude."
Cohen believes training has made him a more effective civic leader, and indirectly, has enriched the council of Gwinnett County's third-largest city. He said most beneficial were courses on the funding and innovation of public safety in 2004 and on recreation and parks in June.
"The classes themselves are invaluable, but what's even more valuable, is the networking opportunity to interact with cities that are going through the same things we are," Cohen said. "If we're building a park like another city did -- whether they have 18,000 residents or 8,000 residents -- they can tell us about the goods and the bads so we can learn from them. It's that learning that helps you improve."