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Last Monday night, I graduated from the Gainesville Citizens Academy, seven weeks of delving into the bowels of city government. There were 28 of us, and we met each Monday night to look into different city departments.
We listened to policemen, firefighters and sewer operators. We walked and looked, listened, walked, looked and listened some more. It was all free, and we couldn't decide which Monday night was the most fascinating.
I was out of town and had to miss the fire department and the next week I listened to several people enthusiastically tell me what I had missed. I loved the water department and seeing all the tests and work that go into providing that elixir of life to each of us with a simple twist of a spigot handle. We also saw and heard about all the tests and work that go into transforming do-do into clean, clear water to put back into our beloved lake.
We got to ask questions each week, but I didn't ask as many questions as Richard Riley. At first, I wondered if he was collecting information for his son, Chris, who is chief of staff for Gov. Nathan Deal. But I remembered that Richard had been asking questions all his life in a marketing-sales career.
Then there was George Danns, who teaches sociology at Gainesville State College, who asked his share of questions. I can't leave out my daughter, Amy, an employee of the city's utilities department, who enrolled in the course only to accompany her mother. More than once, she exclaimed about how interesting it was and how glad she was that she was participating.
At our graduation ceremony in the city's beautiful new Rock Creek Park, one of the city's 20 parks, everyone wanted to say what the course had meant to them. City employees had worked overtime to cook delicious evening meals for us and explain their jobs. The Rev. Evelyn Johnson said it best when she said they not only described their work but they explained with passion.
It was seven weeks of learning and getting to know new interesting people. Sometimes we heard a little boasting about state awards and national recognition, but Gainesville has much to boast about.
I offer this public thank you for a wonderful service, which is offered each year.