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Website of the Week: Chesterfield County, Va.

Citizen involvement in website design and features has contributed to its success.

You may not have heaRD of Chesterfield County but it’s the fourth-most-populous administrative district in the Commonwealth of Virginia (after Fairfax and Prince William Counties and the City of Virginia Beach). But a lot can be learned about the county–and there are a lot of ways for citizens to participate in its governance–at its website, And it was recently acknowledged as the top “digital county” in the nation (among counties with 250,000 to 500,000 residents) by the Center for Digital Government.

The honor comes following a July 2009 redesign designed to put the citizen at the center of the web experience, according to County Applications Director Ted Maxwell. The county relied on a citizen advisory board combined along with representation from most county departments. It uses a content management system (CMS) that leveraging the Microsoft Asp.Net and SQL Server development platform, and the use of XML and WCF web services for data sharing and data consumption with other local municipalities. One example: shared traffic reports with surrounding localities.

The National Association of Government Webmasters has also recognized the site with its highest honor, the Pinnacle “Members Choice” Award.

Maxwell attributes some of the success to the involvement of citizens, who have served on the steering committees of the projects including the website redesign and the Citizen GIS mapping application, which provides online access to map layers and aerial photography displaying geographic details and parcel information.

“Leveraging the talents of the citizens on the projects has produced higher quality systems, and made staff more efficient by limiting rework,” Maxwell said.

Another example: Chesterfield County TV. Board and Commission meetings are streamed online, with an indexing feature that lets citizens to view only those portions they choose. The county has expanded its use of Granicus software to include capture of remote meetings that take place outside of the county complex and at department meetings.

The results: Website visits increased from just 854 in April 2009 to 77,324 in April 2010.

“This dramatic increase serves as the greatest testimony to the fact that our citizens are now using the county website as the ‘go-to’ place for county information and services,” Maxwell said.

That’s a lot of web hits, and is the Government Video Website of the Week!

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