By Lisa Holder, Communications Officer, City of Sanford
Local government is government closest to the people, it’s where the “rubber meets the road.” This local turf, called the public sector, is accessible and thrives on citizen engagement. Couple that with the opportunity to educate the citizenry and you have a magical formula that equals the Citizens Academy “squared.” As a result, Sanford’s Citizens Academy has been a great success for the City with over 200 graduates since the Academy’s inception in 2013.
City Hall’s doors are always open, welcome and accommodating. But what really goes on behind the scenes? How are your tax dollars being utilized? Who are the faces behind the department titles, Public Works, Utilities, Building, Planning, etc.? What’s the City’s annual budget? Who manages the City of Sanford?
Citizens who are knowledgeable become advocates for local government and understand why there are policies, ordinances created and processes set in place that may seem tedious and cumbersome at times; but in the long run, provide the structure and guidance for your City’s elected officials to make significant decisions, ultimately delivering a sound product, a safe city, programs, services, events for our residents and visitors to enjoy. Citizens learn first-hand, the current growth and economic development factors that will soon catapult Sanford to a whole other level.
The Citizens Academy has been offered since 2013, two classes per year and 30 students per class. The free 10-week Academy is offered on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm and a light meal is provided. Citizens who have graduated boast about the course, sharing the Academy through word of mouth to their friends, co-workers, family and neighbors who become new applicants.
Taking their awareness and understanding of City government one step further, several graduates currently serve on City Boards and Committees. A great way to put what has been learned during the Citizens Academy back into real-life decision making situations that affect all that call Sanford home.
Here’s a few graduate comments:
- Worth-while. Informative. Fun. Empowering. Awesome! This was a very enlightening, positive experience.
- Outstanding and I encourage others to participate.
- The thing I will take away is that there are a whole bunch of people that you don’t see on a daily basis, working very hard for the City of Sanford . . . and they all seem to really love their jobs. As a local business and home owner, that really made me feel better about our City.
- Excellent, it is important to us to be informed citizens and understand how our City government works. We also value being productive citizens in our community.
- It was a great experience. I was a little skeptical at first, but after making the commitment, attending the academy, it was a fantastic experience. The information I learned about the City’s history, Police and Fire Departments, Utilities was more than I imagined. The staff was very knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions we had, even after the meeting time ended.
- I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about what the City does and I hope they are valued and well-compensated.
- A++++ it was amazing and I’m going to be sad not spending my Wednesday evenings learning about Sanford and meeting some really great people.
We are offering the first Alumni Event on January 18, 2017 for over 200 graduates. This will be a time for alumni to network, socialize and get updates on the City of Sanford, since folks last took the class.
Citizens are in the driver’s seat, knowledge and an educated citizenry is power, offering the opportunity to learn the process first-hand. Make a difference, show up.
The City of Sanford Citizens Academy curriculum and more information can be found on the City’s website www.sanfordfl.gov/citizensacademy