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Academy aims to educate Salisbury citizens on city facilities, operations

SALISBURY — Starting this fall, the city of Salisbury will launch a free annual program to teach citizens how the city works.
The Salisbury Citizens Academy will accept 20 participants and run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. every Thursday from Sept. 11 to Nov. 6. The academy will kick off with a reception and conclude 10 weeks later with a graduation ceremony, with every city department featured in between, City Clerk Myra Heard told City Council on Tuesday.
Classes will meet at different city facilities. Participants will receive a hands-on, insider view of city operations and leave with a better understanding of how and why Salisbury provides municipal services, including how clean water is delivered to homes and how the Salisbury Fire Department selects which trucks respond to certain calls.
Applications are available online at www.salisburync.gov or by contacting Heard at 704-638-5224 or mhear@salisburync.gov. Class size is limited to 20 and all applications must be received by July 25. Participants must be at least 16 years old.
City Council last year learned about a similar program in Cary that is so popular, it has a waiting list. Heard said she hopes Salisbury will have a similar response.
Heard, Assistant City Manager Zack Kyle and Deputy City Clerk Kelly Baker organized the local academy using best practices from other cities and the UNC School of Government.
Communities with academies found that citizens who participated were more engaged and better understood issues, Heard said. Academies improved communication, transparency and trust.
“By opening the doors to let citizens inside, the trust between citizens and their local government improved,” Heard said.
Participants will take field trips and eat dinner together, Kyle said.
“The best part about it, there is no test,” he said.
The committee has been working with the city’s marketing department to find ways to spread the word about the academy through advertising, social media and community outreach, Baker said.
“We’re going to have fun during this academy maybe even a few surprises,” Heard said. “… What we’re really looking forward to is building relationships.”
The committee is looking for diversity of age, race, socioeconomic status and neighborhood, she said. Like the Rowan Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Rowan, the Citizens Academy is designed to prepare participants for public service on boards and commissions.
The 10 sessions will include:
• Introduction to local government
• Community planning and engineering
• Public services
• Salisbury-Rowan Utilities
• Infrastructure services and Fibrant
• Parks and recreation
• Police Department
• Fire Department
• Human resources/budget/boards and commissions

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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