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Sisters city councilors give first Civic Leadership Academy standing ovation for ways to boost community engagement

(Update: adding video, comments from academy members and mayor)

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Sisters city councilors heard from the first participants in the new Civic Leadership Academy Wednesday night about how they believe the city could improve community engagement and outreach.

The academy is a new six-week program, a partnership between the city of Sisters and nonprofit Citizens 4 Community, where a crash course on local government is taught, in addition to developing leadership skills for cohort members.

During the program, members interview stakeholder groups in the city, research key facts in regard to community engagement and ask questions to further explore the city's public outreach.

Wednesday's city council meeting marked the end of the first round of program, where members were able to present their findings to city councilors.

"The city wasn't as scary as it looks, especially after learning some local government one-on-one," academy participant Blake Blancett said Thursday.

Blancett was one of a dozen volunteers for the first academy, funded through $25,000 in grants.

One of the main topics: using social media to get more people actively involved. 

Academy member Spencer Hamiga said they urged "using a social media contractor or agency or platform, That way, you're reaching different demographic groups with a single click of a button."

Hamiga, who owns Sisters Bakery, and other civics academy members interviewed 30 other Sisters residents and business owner, presenting their findings to the city council.

Another member, Cheryl Pellerin, said, "We don't want to leave anybody out, and our demographics here are primarily 65 and older is the larger demographic."

Blancett added, "There are a lot more younger folks and working members of our community who do care and want their voices heard."

According to the city, some of the recommendations are better for long-term initiatives, while other ideas can be easily achieved.

Hamiga said, "Website maintenance and website flow, making it easier to sign up to their systems roundup newsletter,"

Part of the goal of the program is to create and inspire future leaders. One program member is now running for city councilor in the fall. At the end of Wednesday's meeting, two other program members were appointed to city committees.

Pellerin said, "Volunteers are the pillars of our community. And without our volunteers, what do we have? Everybody that's on city council is a volunteer."

During the meeting, Councilor Gary Ross conveyed his awe at the work done by Civics Leadership Academy members:. He said, "I didn’t expect something this good. You only had six weeks!”

In fact, the presentation from the first leadership academy was met with a standing ovation by city councilors. Now the hope is to have a permanent program, funded by the city.

 Mayor Michael Preedin praised "a program where we teach people, give them a one-on-one program type of thing, so people know how civic engagement works."

The second Civic Leadership Academy will be held at this time next year. The application process will begin in early 2025.

Article Topic Follows: Sisters

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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