Danville City Council honored the graduates of the inaugural Citizen Academy during the council meeting Tuesday night and a reception held prior to the meeting.
The academy provided an overview of city departments, operations, services and resources. Nineteen citizens met each Thursday night over 11 consecutive weeks, beginning Sept. 6 and ending Nov. 15.
“We went through every department and every function the city provides,” Deputy City Manager David Parrish said.
In addition to serving as a learning forum about city government, city official hope the academy will improve communications between citizens and government, as well as foster citizen involvement.
City Manager Joe King, speaking at the reception, said, “Cities that do this (conduct an annual Citizen Academy) find that over a period of a decade a growing number of people become much more engaged and much better informed. That is what it is all about.
“We don’t presume (the city) to be the center of anybody’s universe, but when you drill down, you get to know what is going on and why it is going on and how the pieces fit together. I think you appreciate that we – the City Council and the staff – are trying to do everything we can, not just to satisfy the needs of the citizens right now but to build a better community.”
The city presented the graduates with a certificate during the reception. Mayor Sherman Saunders and City Council then recognized the group during the council meeting, pausing to take a group photo.
“I am proud of all of our graduates as well as our staff,” Saunders said.
The 19 graduates are Petrina Carter, Laurie Dishman, Tommy Dodson, Nancy Eanes, Van Gibson, Bill Griffith, John Hudson, Robert Jiranek, Dan Latham, Sarah Latham, Deb Miller, David Pugh, Dolores Reynolds, Rachel Sanford, Joseph Salmon, Michael Scearce, Delia Turner, Bob Weir and Linda Weir.
Speaking for the group at the council meeting, Scearce said, “It was a real honor to be in the inaugural class of the Danville Citizen Academy. I thank the city manager for his openness and transparency and all of the different department leaders that came. You can tell their heads and their hearts are in their job. ”
Scearce continued, saying, “It helps us as citizens to really understand and to have more empathy for Council and all the challenges you have, especially with the budget coming up. I encourage citizens to join (the next academy). You come away knowing that we really have some qualified people working for our city.”
Classes included an overview of Police, Fire, Public Works, Utilities, Community Development, Economic Development, Finance, Administration, Parks & Recreation, and Transportation. Citizens learned about the resources and programs of each department and the men and women behind them.
Participation was open to individuals who are 18 years of age and older. Danville residents were given priority for seats.
The city will hold the next Citizen Academy in the fall of 2013. An announcement will be made when the class is opened for application.