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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Campbell County Graduates First Citizen Academy

County leadership and staff congratulated the first Campbell County Citizen Academy graduates prior to the November Fiscal Court meeting. Photo courtesy of Seth Cutter.
"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government…" said Thomas Jefferson.

With an eye toward Jefferson’s ideal, Campbell County launched its first Citizens Academy in September 2017. Eight weeks later, county leadership and staff congratulated 16 people from across the area who completed the program.

The group attended eight weekly sessions on various aspects of county government led by county staff and area partners in each area. Topics included basic county government roles and responsibilities, county budget and fiscal matters, economic development, emergency preparedness and management, public safety, parks and recreation, planning and zoning, and county transportation.

At a celebration held just prior to the November Fiscal Court meeting, participants and some of the presenters gathered to mark the occasion and to talk about how it went. Overall, reactions were excited and positive, so much so that county officials announced they would move ahead with a second academy in the spring. 

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Collaboration and innovation

"To me it is amazing to realize how much the agencies work together. That's one of the things I was impressed with. Not only do they seem to get along but they do work together well," said Carl Heck, who lived on Stacy Lane in Fort Thomas for 25 years before moving to Cold Spring.

"Every night was something different, and I'd recommend everybody go through [the program]. I am not going to go out and run for office, but it was good to know how it all works, how the money is spent."

In one session, participants toured the county jail and learned how county agencies are working to address the opioid issue. Several said the jail tour was eye opening.

"I don't think there is any getting around never having been through a jail before," said Fort Thomas resident Patty Laber. She was most impressed to learn that county officials have gone as far away as Florida to research innovations in housing of inmates. One program creates an environment of respect that offers those in jail activities and opportunities to interact.

Learning about the jail programming was only one of several takeaways for Laber. "Every little pocket has so much responsibility," she said. "For example, we heard from the emergency management agency…The breadth and the depth of responsibility in one organization was amazing.

"The level of commitment of each and every person who spoke to us represented that they are very interested in the work that they do, and they have a good handle on what it takes. They have a servant attitude here."

Valuable insights

Laber’s daughter Allison also participated in the academy. She is home on co-op from the University of Kentucky.

"What stood out to me was all the different facets of our county government, everything from parks to the senior center to zoning to the sheriff’s office and the jail," she said.

"I'm studying civil engineering so it was also neat for me because there are so many ties to civil engineering. We heard from the transportation department one day, learned about zoning and also heard about economic development."

When asked about the value of the experience for younger people, she said it was a great opportunity to learn about careers in the public sector.

The experience was valuable for those already working in that sector as well. Carol Rich, a member of the Bellevue City Council, said she’d recommend it to her colleagues and other elected officials.

"Each session was well planned with excellent speakers and allowed time for questions. Now I have more information about county government," she said.

Rich also thanked Seth Cutter, former county economic development officer, and his team for the excellent program. Cutter helped develop and shepherded the new program through to graduation before taking a new position as manager of strategic planning at the Kenton County Airport Board.

Watch for details on the next session of the Citizens Academy in spring 2018 on the Campbell County website. The program has a capacity for 20 to 25 participants.

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