Salisbury Citizen’s Academy demonstrates how the city operates

Published 12:06 am Friday, July 14, 2023

SALISBURY — For almost a decade, the city of Salisbury has been organizing its own Salisbury Citizen’s Academy, allowing local residents to take classes in order to find out firsthand what each department does and what their jobs require of them.

Citizen’s Academy was formed after Salisbury studied other nearby municipalities to see what they were doing to better connect with residents. Similar programs were producing positive results, so Salisbury decided to adopt one themselves.

It is a 10-week course, with a three hour in-person class that meet on Thursdays. Each class centers on a different department in Salisbury like public works, parks and recreation, finance, the police department and fire department. The class limit is 20 people, with first priority given to those who live in the city limits before opening up to the rest of Rowan County. The city’s goal is to have “a diverse and inclusive group” in attendance. The ages of those who participate can range from 16 to late 70s.

“We certainly want to showcase each of the departments within the city of Salisbury. It’s months of planning in advance where each department will host a particular night. Some departments host with others, but they really showcase how they work within the city and how they work with other departments to bring services to residents,” Communications Director Linda McElroy said.

Every week, activities are planned to teach people what the city staff does on a daily basis. In the past, people have been able to simulate drunk driving in a golf cart, lift fingerprints from a coffee mug and orchestrate a mock crisis communication plan.

“We try to schedule hands-on adventures. We’ve had residents actually use the jaws of life to work on a car that had previously been wrecked. So they get the feel of the machinery, but also get an idea of what our firefighters do when they’re rescuing someone from a car,” McElroy said. “It really is going through some of the real world experiences.”

At the end of the academy, there is a graduation ceremony where everyone who completes the course receives a special pin, certificate, and a prize to commemorate all of their hard work and commitment. The Salisbury Citizen’s Academy isn’t just rewarding for the residents who sign up. For the city, it is a vital resource to find out who is a good fit for their team.

“We have greater engagement with our residents, it’s an opportunity for us to meet with our residents. Probably the greatest benefit is the fact that some of our residents go on to serve on our board, but also become staff, they join the city of Salisbury as employees,” McElroy said.

The last day Salisbury Citizen’s Academy will accept applications is Friday, July 14.