Sarasota program educates residents

 PHOTO PROVIDED BY KAITLYN JOHNSTON    Sarasota County’s Civics 101 offers residents and those who work in the county a look at available programs the county has to offer. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about county government operations, including the County Commission, public works, parks and recreation, libraries, emergency management, communications and more.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY KAITLYN JOHNSTON
Sarasota County’s Civics 101 offers residents and those who work in the county a look at available programs the county has to offer. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about county government operations, including the County Commission, public works, parks and recreation, libraries, emergency management, communications and more.

Larry Prohs loves the Sarasota community he’s living in since moving from Ohio in December, but thanks to the county’s Civics 101 course, he’s now more aware of what the county provides.

“One of the reasons why we moved to the community was because of how well-kept the area is,” Prohs said. “I feel like I have a leg up because of the process.”

Sarasota County has been offering the course since 2000, and according to Kaitlyn Johnston, community outreach specialist of neighborhood services, the program has been a resounding success.

“We accommodate up to 25 who register for the course,” Johnston said. “It’s eye-opening. We even get up to three county employees on average who take the course.”

Johnston said the course is catered to non-county employees, and the only requirement is they either live or work in the county.    “We had one person who was impressed how passionate the county employees are at their jobs,” she said.    There are 10 three-hour sessions that include breaks and occasional tours through service centers.

“The county does a ton of stuff,” Prohs said. “They told us what was going on with services like the fire department, sheriff’s office, the 2050 plan, zoning and coding enforcement We talked to (Sarasota County Sheriff) Tom Knight and (Sarasota County Clerk of Court) Karen Rushing.”

Johnston said there is a waiting list for the spring course to accommodate seasonal residents. The fall course is nearly full.

“Sometimes a program will strike a chord with someone and they’ll follow through,” she said. “Sometimes they join an advisory board focusing on different aspects of the county. The only feedback I’ve heard is that some wish there was more time. They come away very fulfilled.”

Prohs found himself volunteering for a neighborhood grant program after his time with the course.

“One of the best things I came away with is a greater appreciation of how our tax dollars are spent,” he said. “I think everyone who came out of the meeting felt similar as I did. I really commend the county for this and they should have it more often.”

The fall course begins at 6 p.m. Sept. 3. Registration is free. Location is to be determined. Applications can be found at http://www.scgov.net/neighborhoodser   vices. Deadline to submit is Aug. 16.

For more information, call 941-861-5000 or email kjohnsto@scgov.net.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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