The Town of Bel Air was recently honored as a “Banner City” and recognized as a platinum member for its participation in the HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign for the Mid-Atlantic by the Maryland Municipal League.
The town is also beginning the process to become recertified as a Maryland Sustainable Community, and its economic development director, Trish Heidenreich, has received a national designation as a Certified Economic Developer.
The Banner City Designation was awarded to Bel Air during the Maryland Municipal League’s annual summer meeting in Ocean City during the week of June 11.
Municipalities with the Banner City Designation “are recognized among their peers as an active participant in showcasing municipal government and how it works,” according to a town news release.
Among the town’s recognized efforts are working to strengthen the statewide association, fostering good will by educating young people about municipal government, participating in MML programs and activities and speaking up “on issues relevant to the [MML] membership and in matters of legislative priorities,” the news release states.
Bel Air has been designated as a Banner City yearly since 2007.
HEAL Cities Campaign
According to the town, the HEAL Cities and Town Campaign supports local elected officials to adopt healthy eating and active living (HEAL) policies and practices.
As a HEAL Campaign member, Bel Air receives technical assistance and resources to support municipal efforts “to create a community where all people can make healthy choices to eat nutritious food and be physically active,” according to a news release.
To become a member of the HEAL Campaign, the town government previously passed a resolution setting goals that it then worked to achieve, according to town officials. As goals are reached, a municipality can advance to higher levels of recognition.
Town officials said they received platinum recognition this year by first achieving gold recognition and then providing evidence that HEAL policies and practices are integrated across all municipal departments and are being monitored.
Among the town’s achieved goals are implementing a nursing mothers breastfeeding policy, community gardens, a community supported agriculture discount to town employees, a regular fitness program, gym membership discount, healthy vending policy, wellness fairs and a wellness committee. The town has approximately 100 employees.
The HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign is a project of the Institute for Public Health Innovation, in partnership with the Maryland and Virginia muncipal leagues and is funded by Kaiser Permanente.
At the most recent town meeting on June 18, the Board of Town Commissioners approved Resolution 1112-18 to continue the town’s participation in the Maryland Sustainable Community Program.
Bel Air was designed a Sustainable Community by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development in 2013, following the town’s production and passage of an exhaustive sustainable community plan.
Such designations run for five years and then must be renewed, explained Kevin Small, the town’s planning director and point person for the sustainable plan.
Small said the town should be submitting its latest action plan to the state around Aug. 1.
The resolution approved by the Town Board establishes the town’s sustainable area by map and also authorizes the chair of the board “to execute documents and take any action necessary” to meet requirements of the state program.
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Heidenreich, the town economic development director, earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), a national recognition that denotes a mastery of skills in economic development, professional attainment and a commitment to personal and professional growth, according to a news release from the International Economic Development Council.
She took the council’s certification exam June 23-24 in Buffalo.
“The CEcD designation recognizes qualified and dedicated practitioners in the economic development field and sets the standard of excellence within the profession,” according to the council.
Candidates must pass a rigorous and comprehensive examination, which has three parts and spans two days.
The exam tests knowledge, proficiency and judgment in business retention and expansion, finance and credit analysis, marketing and attraction, strategic planning, entrepreneurial and small business development, managing economic development organizations, neighborhood development strategies, real estate development and reuse, technology-led economic development and workforce development strategies.
Heidenreich has been instrumental in the town’s efforts to foster its downtown Arts & Entertainment District and in the redevelopment of the former garages behind the Bel Air Armory into the Armory Marketplace.