Westerville residents can get a behind-the-scenes view of how the city operates by participating in the Westerville Citizen's Academy.

The deadline for the spring program, which begins April 16, is March 30.

Erica Charles, academy program manager, said hands-on experiences are the main focus with residents going out for bucket truck rides, driving snowplows and operating excavation equipment.

"But we do include some classroom-style presentations and games," she said.

Charles said the class is nearly full for this spring; however, anyone who isn't accepted into the 2020 program will be placed on the list for next year.

Westerville resident Drew Linnenbom participated in the academy last year and now serves on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

"I very much enjoyed it," he said. "It was a help. It let me see the city from the angle a lot of people don't realize."

Linnenbom, who moved to Westerville in 2015, said the experience was an eye opener to see all the hard work that goes into making the city operate for all the residents.

He said the class generally would hear from two different city departments on any given night.

"Both police and fire were part of the program," Linnenbom said. "We got to see all their equipment. They have their own academies."

He said he especially enjoyed going to the water department to see the process of what makes it safe to drink and what happens before it reaches a water faucet.

He also learned what it takes to respond to a downed electric line.

"I got to see the guys climbing poles and seeing how high up the bucket trucks go," Linnenbom said. "The information systems that run WeConnect (a business hosting and data center) was a piece I didn't know much about."

He said he encourages any resident to participate in the eight-week course to gain understanding of how the city operates.

The citizens academy is based on the Westerville academy programs from the Westerville Divisions of Police and Fire, according to the city's website, westerville.org.

The model is also popular in other cities as a community-engagement program that gives residents an opportunity to interact with city departments, staff and services.

Each week, participants take part in a three-hour class Thursday nights during the term of the course.

Classes are interactive and include activities like exploring equipment, facility tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities. Applications can be found at westerville.org.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla