By Dan Domsic
The Town of Fishers is offering its Town Government Academy for the spring semester.
Citizens that sign up for the program get a chance to learn the ins and outs of the governmental process, speaking with department heads during the free, nine-week long program.
Participants meet on Tuesdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m., visiting with various officials throughout the process. Registration is required by March 5, and the program begins on March 6.
Tony Elliot, assistant to the town manager, will lead the course.
He said the course gives residents the opportunity to get a unique or intimate look at what local government does every day.
“A lot of the questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ sort of get answered through the program,” he said.
Residents get the opportunity to contribute to efforts going on in town while they complete the program.
During the Fall semester of the academy, citizens had the chance to weigh in on downtown redevelopment plans, serving as a public forum, according to Elliot.
How much the citizens get to participate in current happenings is up to the discretion of individual department heads, who Elliot describes as the “professors” of the program.
The students have the chance to learn from all corners of government, from the Fishers Police Dept. crime lab to the wastewater treatment plant.
Elliot said the program was good for transparency and allows town employees to share their profession with people.
“We also see value in it as identifying leaders in the community for the future,” he said.
One community leader began a lasting relationship through the program that would later lead to a big opportunity.
John Wechsler, founder of coworking space and start-up incubator Launch Fishers, got involved in the academy after completing the Citizen’s Police Academy.
There, he met now Town Manager Scott Fadness. At one point, Wechsler was pursuing opening a privately-run business incubator in town. Now Launch Fishers is a reality in downtown Fishers, backed by the council, Fadness and more.
When asked whether getting to know Fadness through the academy eased the process, Wechsler said it “unquestionably” did.
The academy is the first step toward getting involved in the community, Wechsler said.
“If you trace our relationship – Scott and mine – starting there and fast forward and now we’re in the middle of Launch Fishers, I don’t see a better exhibit or case study on why citizens should get involved on this level of their local government,” Wechsler said. “Great things can truly happen when people get involved and understand how their tax dollars are spent and how their government operates.”
For more information on the program, visit www.fishers.in.us/tga.