WATSONVILLE — Understanding the process of city government — the interwoven nature of every department and the sometimes hard-to-follow formal jargon — can be overwhelming.
A new program from the City of Watsonville is hoping to empower citizens with the knowledge needed to follow city government and understand their role in the community.
Watsonville Academy is a free, nine-week session that will give community members an inside look at how their city government functions.
“We’re opening the doors to show how our local government works,” said Deputy City Manager Tamara Vides, who is heading up the program.
Applicants must be at least 21 and reside or own a business in Watsonville.
Sessions start Aug. 22 and will end with a graduation ceremony at the Dec. 10 Watsonville City Council meeting.
Through evening presentations and Q&A sessions, the City of Watsonville will look to “improve the engagement between the community and local government and enhance mutual understanding and trust for one another,” according to the City website.
Vides said seven people have already signed up since the program was announced last weekend.
The academy will be capped at 25 participants.
“We’ve seen an overwhelming amount of support for the academy so far,” said Vides, who added that soon the City would like to run multiple sessions per year and possibly add a Spanish session.
Sessions will run every other Thursday. An informal half-hour dinner with city staff at 5:30 p.m. will serve as the prologue for a two-hour interactive presentation and Q&A session from a different department of city government.
Participants will have the opportunity to meet and quiz city leaders such as Chief of Police David Honda and Fire Chief Rudy Lopez Sr., as well as Mayor Francisco Estrada and City Manager Matt Huffaker. They will also learn about the city’s plans and undergo tours of the City’s facilities.
Vides said she hopes a different member of the Watsonville City Council will also make an appearance for each session.
The academy, according to Vides, will also help city staff understand the concerns and the thought process of the residents they serve.
“It’s going to be fun to hear from the public and learn from them,” Vides said. “
To sign up or learn about Watsonville Academy visit cityofwatsonville.org.