Another Voice: Yolo County 101 Resident’s Academy Creates Advocates
County government is complicated. Most people have a huge misconception of what counties do. I promised myself that if I got elected, I would tell people about county government — I felt that was my job as a county supervisor.
The idea for class that would give residents an opportunity to ask direct questions of our top managers, as well as learn about the purpose and process of our county programs and services, came to me when I was learning about the county myself before I was first elected in 2006.
Every day, every week, I found that I was learning something new. What followed — and continues to grow — was a new-found respect for the complex, difficult work that happens at the local level every day.
I designed the course as a series of nine sessions, each lead by a county department head. Our local community college generously allowed us the use of one of their classrooms one night a week. Topics covered during these sessions included the county’s administrative structure, legal and fiscal processes, history, social services, public housing, tribal relations, land use/general plan, water and flood management issues, and public health and safety.
I called the course: Yolo County 101. I even offered to pay for parking for those who showed up.
Few believed that anyone would be interested in sitting in a classroom for an hour and a half after work on Wednesday nights for over two months to learn about the county.
But my office was willing to go out and do things affirmatively, and I wanted to create understanding and more accountability. So we launched Yolo County 101 on September 12, 2007.
….. 80 people showed up.
Proving the doubters wrong, plain folks from every city and town throughout the county came to gain a better understanding of their local government. The following year, seeing the success of the course, Yolo County adopted Yolo 101 as an annual series hosted by the county’s Human Resources Department.
Now in its fifth year of providing insight to the inner workings of the County of Yolo and other local government agencies, what started out as an experiment certainly proved that there’s a thirst out there for information. I hoped to create advocates for county government. I wanted to educate and inform people who might then be willing to engage in reasoned debate and want to become more involved. Perhaps the county is still invisible to a lot of people, but we are making progress in communicating our value — what we do and how we do it.
The Yolo County 101Resident’s Academy series is held in the Yolo County Board chambers at the County Admin Building, located at 625 Court St., Woodland, CA. Residents can sign up to attend these classes through the Yolo County website by clicking here.
(Matt Rexroad is Chairman of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and represents the 3rd district.)