Salisbury Citizen’s Academy ‘Kickoff’ gets residents ready for upcoming program

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 10, 2023

SALISBURY — Beginning next week, the Salisbury Citizen’s Academy will officially be underway with its first round of classes. The city formed the academy in order to give residents better insight on the machinations of the multiple departments and their roles within Salisbury. The 10-week program will have people shadow and learn about parks and recreation, public works, police, fire, human resources and many others. To prepare the participants for the academy, the city puts on a “kickoff” welcoming event for them to get to know information on local government, but also to meet each other in a genial setting.

“It always starts out this way, you have fun here,” Administrative Services Director Kelly Baker said. “Some people aren’t fully aware about the difference between city and county and state. There is confusion in the community about who kind of handles which part. That’s our overview as we kick off from the first night.”

On Sept. 7, members of the academy visited city hall to participate in the “kickoff.” Dinner was served before everyone took part in a “get to know you” exercise that broke the ice and loosed people up. City Attorney Graham Corriher then led a presentation on the background to the levels of government. He specified what constitutes as the city or county’s responsibility. For example, the city needs to monitor building code enforcement, but the county is in charge of public schools, jails, and social services. Corriher explained the police’s power to the audience while clearing up how the city council operates.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Anne Little spoke on what her department’s does for Salisbury. She said they focus on understanding to allow all people, regardless of identity, the same opportunities in life. She organized an activity that made people separate into the categories that they thought they belonged to like if they identified as tall, short, gay, straight, introverted or extroverted. It made them realize that so much, but so little, truly separates people.

“What makes you different, is what you have in common,” Little said. “What you have in common, is what makes you different.”

Towards the end of the night, there was a “Jeopardy!”-style quiz show where people were tested on all the facts they were taught for small prizes.

Baker underscores how many of the people who join the Citizen’s Academy end up serving on local boards and commissions or work for the city. “It’s a great program to build relationships and build the community within the community,” Baker said.

Brian Maher, a Salisbury resident, wanted to be involved with the Citizen’s Academy to find out more about city council and “what they actually oversee.” To him, Maher thought the “kickoff” “just scratched the surface” and believes there’s so much to discover about the city. In the coming weeks, he’s looking forward to seeing what makes local government really function.

“To get a better understanding of each department. What they do, who do they report to, how things are done,” Maher said. “Who passes along a work order to pave the street? How do they come up with a budget to submit to council for the next fiscal year?”

Salisbury Citizen’s Academy formally starts Sept. 14 and ends with a graduation ceremony on Nov. 9.