Carroll Creek Promenade Park in Federick, Maryland
Carroll Creek Promenade Park in Federick, Maryland

Frederick County, Maryland, USA, located just 45 miles from Baltimore, stands as the largest geographic county in the state. Home to a population exceeding 270,000 individuals, the county is a dynamic and diverse community, with over 20% of residents communicating in languages other than English.

In this “blueprint for inclusive governance,” we’ll share Frederick County’s innovative strategies, providing an approach for counties nationwide looking to enhance community engagement and address the needs and preferences of their residents.

1. Identifying Unique Challenges: The Launchpad for Success

Frederick County, like many other U.S. counties, has encountered distinctive community engagement challenges, especially with a predominantly rural population. Recognizing the need for a customized strategy, county staff initiated a mixed-mode approach, tailoring solutions to address language accessibility needs. Identifying these unique challenges became the essential launchpad for success.

2. Tailoring Engagement Tactics

Acknowledging that a one-size-fits-all approach falls short, Frederick County boldly embraced a variety of tactics to engage its diverse population. A standout initiative involved leveraging a community engagement platform for an ongoing Spanish-speaking community survey. This approach aimed to assess awareness of county programs and services within the Hispanic community while uncovering barriers to resource accessibility. Tailoring engagement tactics became the cornerstone of their versatile approach.

3. Breaking Language Barriers in Public Meetings

To ensure multilingual engagement in public meetings, Frederick County harnessed the power of automated multilingual translation features. This solution provides interpretation in over 100 languages, as emphasized by County Executive Jan Gardner, who stressed the importance of giving everyone a voice. The automatic translation of entire project pages ensures residents can actively participate in public meetings in their preferred language. This symphony of voices is further enhanced by live multilingual translation and automated meeting transcripts, breaking down language barriers and fostering a transparent governance process.

4. Engaging the Community in Decision-Making

In discussions surrounding the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Frederick County elevated community engagement to new heights. The implementation of a community engagement software facilitated inclusive community investment discussions. Collaborating with the community, county staff ensured a democratic decision-making process by determining top-priority areas for utilizing federal funds. Engaging the community in decision-making became a cornerstone of their success.

5. Prioritizing Community Values Through Strategic Planning

Upon taking office, County Executive Jessica Fitzwater outlined a visionary path, emphasizing inclusion, sustainability, and accountability. Aligned with these values, county staff collaborated with community members to establish priorities. Planning workgroups and prioritization surveys focused on key priorities, ranging from economic development to government innovation. This commitment to prioritizing community values through strategic planning became a beacon guiding Frederick County’s success.

6. Inclusive Budgeting Through Micro-Site Engagement

Engaging residents in the budget prioritization process, county staff created the Frederick County Budgeting micro-site. This digital hub became the epicenter for residents to learn about the budgeting process and provide feedback via email, online platforms, phone, or in-person formats. Complemented by public hearings and town hall meetings, this inclusive budgeting approach ensured engagement options for all residents.

7. Measuring Success: A More Inclusive Governance

The innovative use of a community engagement platform allowed Frederick County to implement a mixed-mode approach, considering the unique needs of residents and stakeholders. Visible triumphs include translatable closed captioning during live public meetings, breaking down accessibility barriers. The platform’s success extended to increased outreach within the Spanish-speaking community, showcasing the county’s unwavering commitment to inclusive governance.

8. Centralized Monitoring and Reporting: A Data-Driven Future

With a centralized platform, county staff gained the power to easily monitor and report on engagement. This data-driven approach provides a foundation for confident recommendations grounded in documented public input. Frederick County’s success stands as a model for counties nationwide seeking to foster inclusive and participatory governance, leading the way toward a more responsive future.


In conclusion, Frederick County’s journey unfolds as a comprehensive guide for counties aiming to enhance community engagement and inclusivity. By tailoring strategies, breaking language barriers, and involving the community in decision-making, any county can pave the way toward a more inclusive and responsive form of governance. The blueprint is set; it’s time for others to follow Frederick County’s lead.



SAMANTHA WAGNER is director of marketing at PublicInput.

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