County citizen's academy proposed

August 10, 2003 11:00 pm

By ABBY SOUZA

County Administrator C. Brent Wallace wants to send Tuolumne County residents to school.

At tomorrow's meeting, Wallace will ask the county Board of Supervisors to consider starting a Citizens Academy to educate the public on the workings of county government.

The program, which Wallace heard about at an International City-County Manager's Association conference, would be year-long and consist of sessions on different aspects of government.

In a memo to the board, Wallace suggests seven possible three-hour sessions, including governing the county, customer service, public safety, development and regulatory functions, human services, finance departments and a wrap-up with a graduation.

These sessions would be taught by people who work in each of the areas. For example, finance department staff members, like the auditor-controller and treasurer-tax collector, would talk about who manages county money and where it comes from.

In the memo, Wallace suggested one session be held in the evening every other month, with two sessions in the last month.

Wallace said he sees at least two benefits to this type of program. Besides providing an educational opportunity for residents to become more aware about county operations, Wallace said, the program graduates could serve as potential county committee and commission candidates.

"In fact," Wallace said, "I believe it would be a good policy of the board to place a premium on appointing graduates."

Wallace said if 15 -20 people participated each year, in five years, there would be 75-100 county residents who are be better informed about local government and ready to serve on committees and commissions that often have open seats. If necessary, Wallace said, the program could be conducted twice a year.

If the program is approved, it may be the first of its kind in the state.

"I do not believe there are any California counties that have taken this approach," Wallace said.