Last night I went to my first class of Citizen Academy. This is a class for the public (but you do apply ahead of time) and it is free to take but they do expect you to take it seriously, and give it respect considering many of the city employees are giving up their Thursday night to educate this group of people.
For our first night we met in the City Council Chambers, and I got to ride my bike! I had seem some of my classmates before in one way or another but didn’t actually know them. Miriam Dickler (City Public Information Officer) produced this program and she greeted everyone as they came in. You found your seat where you large binder and name tag was, and then you introduced your self with the people around you.
Mayor Kai Dagier gave the official welcome which made me laugh. Miriam said “and here’s the Mayor to give the official welcome” Kai walks up and says “Welcome…officially!” You had to be there, but it was funny. He went over the mayoral system that we have in place which is a “weak-mayor” system. The mayor is elected as one of the city council members, then the members decide who will be mayor–this is a part-time position. And the mayor only have one vote (in our city’s case it’s one of five) and cannot introduce a motion or second a motion. I find it a little odd, but it’s the way it is, and it’s not uncommon. Apparently, this is the most common form of local government in small cities.
Then, the City Manager, Kurt Hodgen, spoke to us a little bit more about his job and the systems that our city utilizes to provide services to the people of the city. He reports directly to City Council, not to individual citizens. He has to enforce what ever codes (whether chickens or no chickens) whether he agrees with it or not, throughout the city. There is an Assistant City Manager starting soon , but we didn’t talk too much about that.
Once he was finished (he was losing his voice), Earl Thumma Jr., City Attorney, came to speak. We ended up talking a lot about annexation more than anything else. But he is the city’s attorney…not an attorney for the city’s citizens. He said some ask him for legal advice, but sometimes it may be legal advice that would contradict his client, which is the city. He is the first full-time City Attorney that Harrisonburg has had, but since he is full time attorney, the City is his only client.
That’s a brief overview of the first session of the Citizen Academy of Harrisonburg. I will try to post after each session to share what I have learned!
Quirky fact: The court house on Court Square that is the Rockingham County Court House is actually on County property. (I think it’s the one in the middle, but not completely sure). So, it’s funny to think, there’s a circle of the County in the City, then the City is surrounded by the County.
City of Harrisonburg’s Website