Citizens' Academy gives inside view of city government

Sep. 02, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Locals soon will have the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of their city government when a new program launches in a week.

The city of Sanford's first Citizens' Academy, an eight-session informational series about municipal government, kicks off on Sept. 9 and runs through Oct. 27. Participants will learn about the city's facilities and processes, which includes touring of the Water Treatment Plant, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Municipal Golf Course, the Sanford Police Department and the Sanford Fire Department.

Kelly Miller, city of Sanford public information officer, said the goal of the program is to make local government more transparent and to get more Sanford residents involved.

"We really want to create some ambassadors who really understand what's going on," she said. "For us, this is a way to get other citizens active and engaged."

She said people who go through the program hopefully will come back to the city council meetings and share their thoughts on the policies being discussed.

"If we don't have engaged citizens or if we have folks who don't really understand how it works, it doesn't really give them the opportunity to get involved," Miller said.

She said the city would adopt an interactive approach to this project by taking the participants on tours and introducing them to local department heads.

"My goal is not to just sit around and talk," she said. "I think [being interactive is] the best way to truly understand how the city functions and why it functions the way it does."

Miller said Sanford Mayor Chet Mann and Councilwoman Rebecca Wyholf spearheaded the project.

“They have seen it in other municipalities, and they see what the results can be and what a positive outcomes it can have,” she said.

Mann said he had seen this program in action in Concord, N.C., where one of the council members had actually gone through the program herself and decided to run for city council afterwards.

He said he thought this program was a good way to meet a need in Sanford to educate, inform and promote the city.

"We thought part of good government is to make it easier to understand," he said. "I think so many people have so many questions that they don't know how to ask or where to get the information."

For the inaugural run, the program will be limited to 10 participants, he said.

Mann said he would like to see the program expand to 12 or 15 people per year for the next five years.

“I think for quality no more than 20,” he said.

Sessions will be held on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. The final session will be held on Nov. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. To apply, visit www.sanfordnc.net or contact Miller at (919) 777-1133 by 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 4.