Stockbridge Citizens Academy coming soon

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Stockbridge residents will soon have the opportunity to get an in-depth look at how their city operates, much in the same way a popular McDonough program has educated citizens the past few years.

The Stockbridge City Council voted unanimously at its regular February meeting to establish a Stockbridge Citizens Academy for the purpose of familiarizing people with the workings of Stockbridge city government.

City officials are planning to have eight weekly sessions, likely to start in early June although the schedule has not yet been finalized. Each session would focus on a different component of Stockbridge government.

The sessions will be facilitated by members of city staff as well as from the Henry County Police Department and Henry County Fire Department, both of which serve the city.

“The principle goals of this program will be to educate the public on the functions of their local government, and increase citizen awareness and interest in city government,” according to a statement from the city.

The council vote approved $1,200 to fund the program, an amount that is expected to cover course materials, graduation materials and light refreshments. That money was already available in the city’s budget.

The program in Stockbridge is the brainchild of Regina Lewis Ward, the city’s newest council member who took office in late 2014 after the resignation of Richard Steinberg.

If it sounds vaguely familiar to something already in operation in Henry County, Ward got her inspiration in part from her participation in the McDonough 101 program, as she was in the first class a few years ago.

“It was a great program, and I was fortunate to be able to attend,” she said. “I think it’s just a good idea as far as connecting citizens with their government.”

A couple of other McDonough 101 alumni spoke to the council about its positive attributes as the Stockbridge program was under consideration.

“Most citizens don’t really have a good understanding of the city’s operation,” said Ward. “Once they get that, they understand why things can or can’t get done, or why it takes time to get some things done.”

The idea was well-received from the beginning by council members and citizens alike.

“I think everyone thought it was a great idea and was needed,” she said. “At the council meeting I had some people come up and say they were interested in attending.”

As the details are being ironed out over the next few weeks, registration for program participants could start in early spring. The class will likely be limited to about 20 students, and city officials hope to see it become an annual event.

“As long as the citizens are interested, I think we will continue to do it,” said Ward.

An official announcement about registration should be posted on the city’s web site and announced at a future council meeting.