Twenty local citizens graduated from the 8th annual Valdosta Government 101 Citizens Orientation at a ceremony on May 8, joining more than 200 graduates from the program to date.
The seven-week program, an initiative of the Valdosta Mayor and City Council, attracted citizens from all walks of life—from student to educator, professional to retired, and everything in between—with the common goal of learning about the programs and services of their city government. The class of 2017 includes Susan Bailey, Des’Jorie Brown, Frances Butler, Maranda Cleland, George Cleland, Christina Colter, Ed Doherty, Wanda Halter, C.E. (Ed) Hightower Jr., Joe Ed Holt, Daniel Jansen, Denise Kinsey, Harriet Messcher, Robert Moore, Charles Nettles, Michael Noll, Emily Smith, Ryan Smith, Elly Steed, and Kurt Stoltz.
"I recommend this program to every citizen, especially if you want to serve as a volunteer or run for office,” said Michael Noll, VSU professor of geography. “I learned so much and met the great folks behind the scenes who do a fabulous job of keeping us safe and the city running smoothly."
Participants of the program met on seven consecutive Monday evenings, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., to learn about the overall city government structure, public safety, municipal court, engineering, public works, utilities, financial administration, industrial and economic development, recreation, inspections, neighborhood and community development, parks and recreation, Main Street, and planning and zoning. The group toured several government facilities, such as the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, Municipal Court, Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Lab, fire and police departments, City Hall, and the award-winning Water Treatment Plant. In addition, participants took a tour of Downtown Valdosta that featured the business, entertainment and housing options available in a thriving Main Street program.
"Building healthy communities requires a better understanding of the working of a city government and all its programs, and this is a perfect introduction to it," said Susan Bailey, VSU Program Coordinator.
The Valdosta Government 101 Citizens Orientation is one of three volunteer programs in the City of Valdosta available to citizens—the other two are the Citizens Police Academy and Citizens Fire Academy—designed to give locals valuable knowledge of resources through a behind-the-scenes view inside their local government. A number of graduates from these programs have utilized their gained experience and knowledge to pursue public service opportunities, such as serving on local boards and commissions and other public offices.
“The City of Valdosta is the only local government in our area that has this type of citizens program,” said Mayor John Gayle. “We are proud to have Valdosta Government 101 participants from throughout Lowndes County, as well as from the adjacent counties, who are truly interested in learning about our city government and community. As a result, this program is producing more informed community members who want to play a greater role in civic life.”
The Valdosta Government 101 Citizens Orientation is held each year during the months of April and May. For information about the 2018 class, contact Public Information Officer Sementha Mathews at 229-259-3548.