Want to get more involved in your city?
Hillsboro's Civic Leadership Academy is gearing up for its third year this fall, and organizers say the 12 open positions will offer plenty of opportunities for local residents to have more of a voice in the local community.
Previously known as the Hillsboro Citizens' Academy, the leadership academy formed in 2016 to provide an opportunity for interested Hillsboro residents to learn more about community governance and how to make an impact on their community. Several past participants have gone on to serve positions on city committees.
"It's a way of introducing people to not only the city of Hillsboro, but to more specifically the concept of being on a board or commission or on a council," said city spokesman Patrick Preston. "[It enables] people to feel connected to the city and to gain experience and knowledge of how to be part of the process."
The academy is open to all Hillsboro residents and requires only a desire to get involved, Preston said.
"I think there is a group of people in Hillsboro who will seek out opportunities to get involved … they know they want to play a meaningful role in the community that they live in, and they will find that," Preston said. "There's also a group that might not necessarily be aware of opportunities to get involved, and so that's one reason we work to try to encourage as many people as possible to give consideration to that."
The 12 participants chosen for the academy each year decide upon an issue they feel effects the community at large, and then learn how to properly research the issue, analyze their findings and present a solution to the City Council. Past topics focused on in the academy include affordable housing in Hillsboro and supporting local entrepreneurs. This year, the academy will likely focus on solutions for improving the connections within the city in general, Preston said.
During the six class-like sessions, academy participants work with a team from Portland State University's Hatfield School of Government's National Policy Consensus Center.
"They're experts in government and public policy," Preston said. "They understand how various city governments work and they take the lessons that they've learned in their years of study and research and they're able to convey to people (in the academy) how they can be effective."
Hillsboro's leadership academy has already served as an example for other leadership groups across the country, said Kristi Wilson, who works for the city and helps facilitate the program.
"We have had other cities from around the nation contact us about what we're doing here, so I think it's likely that this program is going to be duplicated in other cities," Wilson said. "I think that's something that we can be proud of."
Wilson said six of last year's academy participants have ended up closely involved in the city of Hillsboro, including Beach Pace, who is running for city council this fall, Kipperlyn Sinclair who serves on the city's planning commission, and Nicole Burgess who is on the Hillsboro Parks and Recreation commission.
Also a graduate of last year's academy is Elizabeth Case, who moved to Hillsboro from Isaqua, Wash. three and a half years ago after her husband accepted a job with Nike.
"I was looking for a while at what I could do to get more involved in the city and the local government, local politics, and effect some change," Case said. '"I saw (a posting) and said, 'This is the thing that I've been looking for.' It is the best thing I have done since moving to Oregon, one of the best things I've ever done in my life."'
Through the academy, Case expressed her interest in one day running for city council to Pace, who hired her as her campaign manager. Case is also serving on the small business entrepreneurial council through the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce.
"There are so many ways to get involved in this town," Case said. "And just the relationships and the connections that I've made (through the academy) were incredible."
The six workshops are held on Wednesday evenings at the Hillsboro Civic Center, beginning in September. Attendance at all meetings is required. This year's sessions will be held on Sep. 12, 19, 26 and Oct. 10 and 17 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dinner and childcare are also provided at all of the sessions.
To apply for this year's leadership academy, or for more information, visit the city's website. The deadline to apply is Monday, July 23.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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