Town of Cary, NC
TIMING PROGRAM TO PROMOTE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
- Town of Cary, NC: School of Government
- Population: 135,234
- Years Offered: 8 (2003-present)
- Signature Innovation: Program graduation aligns to board/commission application period
Cary, NC, is an affluent suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital, with over 135,200 residents. The School of Government was created out of a town council desire to “increase understanding of how and when the public is involved in [t]own processes and decisions and spur even greater community involvement.”
The School of Government’s annual timing is a literal manifestation of this goal. Between 2004 and 2008, the program was offered every fall since town board and commission applications were due in December (right after the program’s conclusion). When that application process was moved to the late spring of each year, the town manager moved the School of Government to early spring so these processes were in sync. Because graduates feel empowered to serve their community through these appointments, Cary reinforces its desire to enable citizen participation with the program’s timing.
The program meets for eight sessions, every Wednesday in the spring from 6-9pm. Applicants are chosen by town staff to represent all the community’s ages, genders, districts, and both new and more tenured residents. Participants as young as 15 have participated.
Only snacks are offered during the sessions, and the budget is kept to $1,600. The graduation is held during the final class session with a guest speaker, and, in addition to certificates, graduates are given polo shirts and a book on North Carolina cities.