By applying to Team Ashland, 19 residents of the city can closely learn about local government departments, community associations and current community issues.
Team members will experience all of the city departments by demonstrations, presentations, and tours and, in some cases, have the opportunity to learn equipment and machinery often used in those departments. Open dialogue provided by administrative offices and community and business leaders will provide an understanding of issues and opportunities within the city.
“The demonstrations aren’t just academic events, we want people to have fun while understanding more of what the city does,” said John Karns, interim city administrator.
The objective of the association is to build a diversified resource for community leadership. But mostly, it is a learning experience for anyone who would like to educate themselves on the inner workings of the city.
“The intent is to allow these people to learn more about the city that they live in,” Karns said. “And also we hope that it fosters, eventually, an interest in some of these people to take leadership roles in the city.”
The team will meet approximately 11 times over the course of five months. The program starts Aug.10 with an orientation and ends Dec. 14 with a graduation and recognition ceremony. Events fall on weeknights (Monday through Thursday) and possibly Saturdays, according to Karns. Each session will last approximately three hours.
“I’ve never heard of another municipality doing it,” Dan Dawson said, Team Ashland applicant. “It seems like a really fast way to become an informed citizen.”
Large departments such as Public Works will present a discussion, as well as an outdoor demonstration where team members have the chance to learn about the equipment and machinery used for street and utility work.
“The fire department will have various props set up for the people to try — the jaws of life and the hoses, thermal imaging cameras, and a tour of the station,” Karns said.
Ashland has about 24 commissions and committees, Karns said. As Ashland is such a multi-faceted city, it creates a greater need for residents to understand more of how each segment interacts with each other and its citizens.
“We take the city for granted,” said Rick Sparks, Team Ashland applicant. “The city is willing to show citizens how the city works … It makes it even more of a place I love to call home.”
A different team will be selected each year and applications will reopen annually, although applicants may reapply yearly. The program is free and the only requirement is that applicants are an Ashland resident and willing to attend the 11 sessions.
“We’re looking for anybody who has an interest in the city,” Karns said. “We’re not looking to target anyone in particular.”
Karns developed the idea largely based from a similar program he was involved with in Beverly Hills, California.
Karns said if the city takes to the program like Beverley Hills did, there should be much more than 19 applicants.
“If there’s a huge number of applications, there’s a chance that we could run this again in the spring time,” Karns said.
Team members who have graduated from the program and received an education on how the city works would have an advantage if they wanted to apply to city commissions and committees.
“That’s what happened down in California,” Karns said. “These people had their interests sparked in leadership roles in the community and were able to fill them.”
The mayor and each City Council member will individually choose two team members. One member will be chosen by each of the following: Ashland School District, Southern Oregon University, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland Chamber of Commerce and Asante Ashland Community Hospital.
Applications are due by Tuesday, July 25. The application forms and a brochure containing a timeline of events at City Hall are available online at www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=17413.
“So often you just go through the day-to-day business of life and you don’t think a lot about where you live and this city is fairly complex, we provide a wide array of services,” Karns said. “It’s just an opportunity for people to learn about the community that they live in.”
—Email Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at firstname.lastname@example.org.