Community education and connectivity.
That’s what at least two registrants are hoping to gain from the six-week Victoria Citizens Academy that begins in February.
The inaugural academy is designed to provide hands-on opportunities for the public to learn more about the city’s governmental departments and to create an avenue for residents to interact.
David Clinefelter and Catherine Maurer, who both moved to Victoria in recent years, say they appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the city’s inner workings, as well as getting to know others from the community.
“I now have more free time on my hands and I thought it would be good to get to know some of the people in Victoria and learn more about the city as well,” said Clinefelter, 69, who retired two years ago.
“I would like to know more about the city in general,” he added. “I think it’s a great idea for the city to offer a program like this.”
Clinefelter, who moved to the city four years ago, used to be “quite involved in a lot of government programs,” primarily helping to attract new businesses, when he lived in a small Iowa town.
“I’m thinking, the more I get to know Victoria, I might be able to volunteer, maybe on some city commissions or projects they are working on; to use my skills to possibly help,” he said.
On Thursday nights, from Feb. 13 to March 12, with an optional field trip on March 14, participants will learn how city services decisions are made, and delivered. The sessions run from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 or 8:15 p.m., depending on topics. Light refreshments will be available.
“I think it will be very informative,” said Maurer, who moved about three years ago from Toronto to Victoria and now resides short distances from her children.
“When I moved here, I looked at the different bills and fees and wondered what they were all about,” said Maurer, who also previously lived in Minnetonka. “Being retired, I have the time to learn a bit more about the workings of the city and thought this academy would be a good way to do that.”
Maurer also said the sessions will allow her to meet both residents and government officials.
“It’s always nice to know more faces and names,” she said. “I’m picturing this as being a little bit like school.”
Gwen Campbell, Victoria’s communications manager, said the city’s academy is modeled after successful police academies and other communities’ citizens academies which have improved community engagement and communication.
Campbell said city staff is working to showcase Victoria’s various city departments in unique ways.
“We don’t want these sessions to be just people sitting there getting information,” she said. “We’re going to hit all of our departments that provide our services and make it interesting. We’re going to have some interactive pieces.”
“We plan on doing Jeopardy-style games, where they are on teams and answer questions on how city services are provided,” Campbell said. “Or we may give them a budget where they have X amount of dollars to spend on all the city’s needs or residents’ desires. It’s all designed for people to gain a greater understanding of how city operations works.”
The academy is limited to 30 participants, with a minimum of 10 required.
“The other thing about this is that it brings together people who may not know each other well, which is a good thing,” Campbell said. “We are a community with a lot of smaller communities. It’s valuable for people to get to know others from the city who might not live near you.”
The academy also includes tours of several facilities, including the water treatment plant, public works and city hall.