Meet your government
Every Monday, The Times takes a look at someone who keeps local government running smoothly.
She does not vote on taxes. She likely will not show up if there is a problem with your sewer service. And she definitely will not be on the front end of the hose if your house is on fire.
But Catiel Felts is still one of the most visible components of Gainesville government.
Felts, the city’s public information officer, is a mainstay on the government channel TV18 with her two shows "Eye on Gainesville" and "Good Morning Gainesville."
A former journalist, Felts uses her background in broadcast news to reach her ultimate goal of helping people understand where their tax money goes.
"They’re paying into the city of Gainesville and I think it’s our job and our responsibility to tell them what they’re getting for their money," Felts said. "And I think, also, when we’re informed and educated, I think it makes you feel more of a part. You have a vested interest in what’s going on."
Felts’ favorite way to do that is through Citizens Government Academy. The annual class teaches residents about the inner workings of city government, and involves them in mock processes on the multitude of government functions from budget planning to rezonings. At the least, Citizens Government Academy familiarizes its pupils with the people who affect their daily lives.
"Now, if they have, you know, a comment or a compliment or an issue or concern ... they know who to contact in the city of Gainesville," Felts said.
Though the class came after a similar program in Decatur, Gainesville’s government academy has become a model for other cities in the state.
"We’ve done several presentations across the state ... just to share our information with other communities," Felts said.
A native of Wilkes County, Felts said she now calls Gainesville her home. She came to the city in 1989 to join the staff of WDUN where she reported the news "sitting at the right hand of Ken Stanford." And in 1996, when her daughter was 3-years-old, Felts, needing a change, joined the city staff.
"I thought I’d come here and work at the radio station a few years and then leave," Felts said. "I just love it. I really, I really do."
And now that her daughter is a junior in high school, Gainesville is where Felts said she will stay — at least until her retirement.
"My daughter was born here and then she started school here and then it became her home..." Felts said. "I grew up in the same community my entire life, and I think there’s a lot of value in that."