That word: Government. It can offer fear, hatred, indifference or mystery, but really never love, or even complete respect.
We all experience governance daily, when we turn on the faucet to wash our hands, or walk down the street to spend a day in the park reading. Parks, streets, police, firefighting, water, waste and the airport are just a few of the many services we take for granted daily that depend on local government action. Rarely do we ask how it all works, or push ourselves to take an interest and find out.
When I told friends that I was signing up for the City of Prescott Citizen’s Academy class, I got a surprising number of expressions of interest and even questions about how to join in.
The City offers this program at no cost to residents other than time and effort. Don’t get me wrong, time is a commodity not easily given away, I get that, but for me the tradeoff was well worth it.
“The academy allows for open communication for people to learn and ask questions about City functions, like what happens to water when it goes down the drain, what it takes for their call to the fire department to be answered, and everything in between. The Citizen’s Academy is also a great learning opportunity for those interested in serving on the City Council or other City boards and commissions,” says Special Projects Coordinator Amber Fraser, who oversees the Citizen’s Academy program.
The way the City organizes these presentations by City staff and departments is informative and entertaining. I learned about how our water, parks, roads, police and fire departments and city management work seamlessly together in a well orchestrated ballet of public employees, away from the political rhetoric we typically see from our elected officials. It was fascinating to see how much of local government is managed by public servants who just want the best for our city.
“Looking at our government as a board of governors (City Council), I would be the CEO hired by the Council to oversee the City as a business that provides safety, security, and overall wellbeing of daily life to all Citizen’s, workforce, visitors and tourists to Prescott,” said City Manager Michael Lamar, who’s been working for us since 2016. He’s preparing to hand off to a new manager and move to a new job as the City looks for a professional to take his place.
The program included a tour of the airport and updates on its expansion from the people who will be tasked with implementing it, a walk though the grounds of the police department and learning how our local emergency dispatch center helps assure our safety, and a demonstration by our state-of-the-art emergency-response teams from our chief and firemen while lunching on some great homemade firehouse chili.
Particularly interesting was learning about how our public conversation about water is expanding, looking for ways to help optimize the water we have for our future.
The program helped me appreciate the effects our government has on daily life for everyone who lives and works here, and how it helps shape our community.
I want to thank everyone who puts in the hard work for Everybody’s Hometown without concern about the dogwhistles and divisiveness of politics that cause us to so often turn away from our neighbors in anger.
I heard, loud and clear, that our government is more than our elected officials — it’s people who are proud of their work and where they live. “We enjoy the Citizen’s Academy and being able to engage the participants who are learning the ins and out of municipal government,” said Ann Steward, Tourism and Economic Initiatives Manager.
Fraser sums it up: “Above all else, the Citizen’s Academy connects people and helps keep the small-town feel that many of us have stayed here or moved here for.”
Overall the two and a half hours I had to devote each week for eight weeks just flew by, and I’d really like to do it all again. To find out more or get involved yourself, call the office of the deputy city manager at 928-777-1340 or visit https://www.prescott-az.gov/city-management/programs/citizen-academy/.