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Spring version of Mayberry Citizens Academy planned

On the heels of a successful Mayberry Citizens Academy last fall, Mount Airy officials are rolling out a spring edition of the program to give local residents the opportunity to learn more about city government.

“It is no secret that citizens across the United States possess little knowledge about their government or its operations,” City Manager Stan Farmer said in a statement announcing the latest academy and the role it can play in addressing that issue.

“This is particularly true at the local government level,” Farmer added. “Ironically, residents know least about the level of government closest to them.”

Mount Airy officials are seeking to bridge this gap with the continuation of the Mayberry Citizens Academy.

Its second version will start on March 7 and run for a total of eight sessions each Tuesday evening over an eight-week period until April 25.

During those classes, to run from 5:30 to 7 p.m., a different aspect of local government will be covered by the city manager or relevant department head.

The range of topics includes city and state government relations; fire operations; police and code enforcement; public works/utilities; finance; parks and recreation; and planning. The last session will be a graduation ceremony.

Farmer pointed out that the aim of the program is to better inform citizens about matters that typically arise in municipal government and alleviate a lack of understanding often greeting those.

“This paradox can create challenges for local government leaders who try to garner resident buy-in, particularly when addressing complex issues such as new ordinances, funding capital projects or rezoning decisions,” the city manager stated.

“Although articles (from) the local newspaper, city website, social media and Board of Commissioners meetings can help local governments connect with residents, public sector leaders have long sought better methods for promoting engagement and information sharing.”

The Mayberry Citizens Academy reflects a nationwide trend of local government officials initiating programs promoting a better understanding of local governments, according to Farmer.

Variously referred to as citizen academies or leadership institutes, these programs seek to educate through direct contact with public officials, site visits and hands-on activities.

“These programs are fairly common throughout the nation,” Farmer advised.

Signup details

The upcoming Mayberry Citizens Academy is limited to 15 attendees.

“Several of Mount Airy’s finest have signed up already for the spring class,” the city manager reported last Friday. He says there is no deadline to do so, with the registration to proceed on a first-come, first-served based until the class limit is reached.

Those interested in learning about their local government and having a little fun in the process, Farmer pledged, are asked to complete a short, half-page application on the city of Mount Airy website — at— which can be sent to or dropped off at the Municipal Building.

Applicants must be city residents, but if there are seats remaining non-residents may be considered. Emphasis will be given to creating a diverse class from as many different neighborhoods within Mount Airy as possible, organizers say.

An attendance policy will be in force to ensure a full and dedicated class. Participants missing two or more classes do not graduate, but will have the option to make up classes they missed when the next academy takes place.

Those doing so may graduate with the next academy.

During the graduation ceremony, each student will be presented with a certificate of completion signed by the mayor, and a class shirt embroidered with the city logo.

Their pictures will be taken with the mayor and classmates to be sent to the local newspaper and other media outlets.



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