The city of Wilsonville is hosting a six-month course to teach residents about municipal government.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF WILSONVILLE - The class of 2022 from Wilsonville's civics academy is pictured here. Participants are given a street sign with their name on it. Wilsonville residents wanting to learn more about their local government can apply to the city's civics academy — a six-month course that introduces participants to major city departments and how they function.

"The intent of the program is really to invite our community members to learn about our programs, services and departments so that they better understand how we serve them," said city spokesperson Zoe Mombert.

Through monthly meetings, participants will learn how different facets of their city government operate, such as City Council, parks and recreation, public works, South Metro Area Regional Transit, local police and fire departments and more, Mombert said.

Up to 25 citizens can participate in the program, Mombert said, and applications are due at 5 p.m. Nov. 10. Upon completion of the program, participants will be awarded street signs with their name on it.

The program has been conducted annually for the last several years and is overseen by the city manager's office.

Mombert said the academy provides great experience for citizens interested in serving on city boards.

Imran Haider, a Wilsonville resident and professor at Washington State University, completed the program in 2021 and is now the chair of the city's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board.

"It was informative and it allows you to have technical understanding of what budgets mean, how money is used, all that stuff," he said.

He said the sessions with law enforcement and the parks department, as well as learning about the history of Wilsonville, particularly stuck out to him.

"I think it's cool for the average person to be able to talk with people that help make decisions about city structure and policies," Haider said.

Haider ran for City Council the year before completing the civics academy, and was surprised by how many people expected him to have already been through the program even though it's not required. He said that experience was part of what pushed him to fill out an application for the academy, but he still doesn't think it should be expected of everyone who runs for office.

"I think there's an advantage to a person who has a city position that's not engulfed in already understanding city structure — somebody who just lives life and pays their taxes," he said.

But for an individual who wants to understand more about their city, Haider thinks the civics academy is a great opportunity.

"It's for the average person that's interested in spending time to learn about city government and technical aspects that the average person wouldn't know," he said.

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