Three years later, Sherwood's Citizens University still a hit
You don't have to take out a student loan to attend this university.
Truth is, there is no charge for Sherwood Citizens University and you'll get the benefit of learning all about Sherwood city government.
According to City Manager Joe Gall, the University has been in existence since 2016. Classes are held twice per year, usually in the fall and spring.
"The origins really came from my office," Gall said. "I've been involved with other efforts like this with previous organizations. Former City Councilor Jennifer Kuiper was a big proponent of this — she, as a fairly new city councilor, was always amazed at how people really didn't understand how their local government operates."
Gall said, "We put together what we labeled Sherwood Citizens University. I think the original course was over six weeks."
Currently, because there is much more content to cover, the University runs seven weeks (three hours a night, once a week, on Thursdays).
Noting there are 21 hours of classroom instruction, Gall added, "It's a pretty heavy lift in terms of a time commitment for participants."
Gall said, "The goal is pretty simple, to learn how their government operates from the people that are providing the service. It's not more complicated than that."
One city leader who teaches at the University is Gall himself.
"One of the first sessions that I do is, kind of, an overview of city government — a lot of people don't know what the mayor does or what a city manager does," he said.
Citizens also will learn how the city spends money.
"One of the later sessions towards the end, which is always interesting, is how do we work with other governmental organizations," Gall said.
Classes focus on several departments, including public works, community development, finance and the city Aatorney.
"It runs the gamut," Gall said.
On one night, the University will focus on the Sherwood Police Department.
"So that's a fun night," Gall said. "People love that night — they get a tour of the police station. Chief (Jeff) Groth always tries to bring all of his staff in to meet the citizens that are in the class, which is usually well received."
Gall expects to start recruiting citizen students in early January for the spring series, which should take place in the March-April time period. Dates had not been set as of press time.
"I anticipate applications will be due in, probably, the third or fourth week of January, for the spring series," Gall said. "We like to get anywhere from 10 to 20 students in the class."
School-age students are encouraged to attend the classes.
"Last fall, we had an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, who were homeschooled, participate with their mom," Gall said. "They were great. They asked great questions. We have a wide range of ages who participate."
According to Gall, five out of the seven current City Council members have gone through Citizens University.
"I always encourage new councilors, who have been elected, to go through it," Gall said. "It helps them understand our organization — they're learning just like any other citizen."
City Councilor Sean Garland was one of the University participants.
"What I really got from it was understanding the interactions between agencies and the city," Garland said. "How does the city work with Metro, ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) and Washington County when it comes to infrastructure, roads and construction projects."
Garland continued, "Learning a lot of those details was very helpful for me when I joined City Council, then having a clearer understanding of the big picture."
Updates on the University will be revealed on the city website and on social media.
Gall enjoys seeing citizens learn about the city of Sherwood.
"I just love the fact that citizens want to learn how, and ask questions about how their city operates. It's very rewarding to be able to talk and answer questions and have that face-to-face interaction with folks," he said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.