1/4/2013 8:12:00 AM Citizens Academy educates Prescott Valley residents about local government
Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog speaks during the first session of the Prescott Valley Citizens Academy Wednesday evening in the library. The academy educates participants about municipal government and serves as a recruiting tool for volunteers.
Ken Hedler/The Daily Courier
Ken Hedler Special to the Tribune
More than 30 Prescott Valley residents began 2013 committed to learn more about their municipal government.
Thirty-six people signed up for the new session of the 10-week Prescott Valley Citizens Academy, and 29 of them attended the opening night Wednesday in the crystal room at the library. The class is free, and meets from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through March 6.
Participants will spend the evenings listening to presentations from 11 town departments and five public agencies. Town officials urge them to attend a council, board or commission meeting.
Each participant received a three-ring binder that includes lined pages in which to take notes.
Participants included four candidates for the Town Council elections March 12, a Planning and Zoning commissioner, the wife of a councilman and many others. They range in age from a twenty-something college student to retirees in their 60s and older.
The town government started the academy in 2006 to provide residents with an in-depth look at municipal government. The academy also serves as a tool to recruit residents to volunteer on boards and commissions.
"I've never been to a town where they have had this kind of presentation," said Jerry Burress, a resident since 1999 who formerly worked as a computer programmer with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment in Denver. "It is a good town. I understand that it is run pretty well."
"Just shy" of 350 people have taken the class since the start, said Deputy Town Manager Ryan Judy, who presides over the sessions.
Judy delivered the overview of the class, followed by welcoming remarks from Mayor Harvey Skoog and Town Manager Larry Tarkowski.
Tarkowski, who started in public works in 1989 and is going on his ninth year as town manager, asked for a showing of hands of how many participants have lived in Prescott Valley 20 years, 10 and five years. The majority have lived here 10 or fewer years.
He referred to one previous class where 90 percent of the participants had lived in Prescott Valley no longer than two years. He talked about austerity measures the town government took in advance of the Great Recession that involved cutting staff through attrition with a hiring freeze and later reducing services, such as closing the library on Mondays.
"Quite frankly, it is so nice to talk to you now that we are on the upswing," Tarkowski said. He urged the participants to ask questions of department heads who will speak at upcoming sessions.
Tarkowski said Prescott Valley has about 4.5 town employees for every 1,000 residents, much smaller than the national average of 12 employees.
After he finished speaking, the participants introduced themselves and explained why they enrolled in the academy.
During the dinner break with delivered pizzas, Bill Cart, a retired retail horticulturalist who has lived in Prescott Valley since 1998, said he enrolled to learn more about the community and to become involved in civic affairs. He already volunteers as a master gardener with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds.
Perhaps the youngest participant is Jacqueline Mench, a 14-year resident who turns 25 Monday.
"I am interested in government, politics and economics," said Mench, a sophomore at Yavapai College. She said she might run for public office "someday."
The academy concludes with a roundtable at the 10th session, and a graduation ceremony will take place at the Town Council meeting March 14.
The next session will start in September. For more information, call Judy at 759-3104.