Series offers county residents inside view of government operations

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.

Alachua County residents can learn about local government during a free, seven-week course hosted by the county. The Alachua County Civic Education Series, or ACCESS, begins April 7 and will provide participants with detailed information about the operations of county departments, special districts and constitutional officers.

“I hope participants gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the complex nature of providing local government services to our wide array of stakeholders,” said Donna Bradbrook, a manager with the strategic performance program.

The deadline to register for the program is March 28, but Bradbrook said participants are welcome to show up on the first day. Alachua County residents who are 18 or older can register online at

Bradbrook said that, so far, 15 people have registered, but she said she expects that number to increase. Last year, 60 people signed up, more than 35 remained active participants, and 25 graduated, meaning they attended five of the seven sessions and received a class photo and certificate and participated in a presentation in front of the County Commission.

“I think it is a wonderful introduction to new members of our community, and a great way for those of us who have lived here for quite some time but never had the opportunity to learn about all the departments of our county government,” an ACCESS graduate said in an evaluation submitted to the county. “It also provides new retirees with an opportunity to learn about possibilities for volunteering and participating more actively in the governance and development of our county.”

Sessions are held Mondays from 8:30 a.m. until about noon and include presentations, handouts, tours, hands-on activities and question-and-answer periods with department directors and constitutional officers. Participants are responsible for transportation to and from each of the seven different meeting sites and are asked to sign waivers in order to visit certain sites, such as the county jail.

“I actually laugh a little because the elections with (Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter) was the presentation that sticks in my mind most,” an ACCESS graduate said in an evaluation submitted to the county. “Who knew! She was a passionate presenter.”

Bradbrook said the relatively small class size allows for more interaction with presenters. She said she expects as many as 25 presenters during this year’s program, including the director of the Alachua County Health Department and the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

On the final day of the program, participants tour Animal Services, Public Works and the Leveda Brown Environmental Park. The session runs until 2 p.m., and lunch is included.

“I found the ACCESS program to be informative, well run and a good use of my time,” another graduate said in an evaluation submitted to the county. “I think it will help me be a better citizen.”

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