DavenportU Citizens Academy seeks participants for spring cohort

DavenportU, the City of Davenport’s citizens academy, returns in-person this spring for the first time since 2019. 

The program offers residents an up-close introduction to the workings of the city and its various departments. Applications are being accepted for DavenportU’s spring cohort, which will run from March 28 to May 25. 

“We are excited to host in-person sessions once again and look forward to participants being able to come together, ask questions, and get a behind-the-scenes look at city operations,” Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said in a news release. 

Launched in 2016, this will mark the sixth cohort for the city-run academy. The 2020 session was canceled by COVID-19. In 2021, DavenportU shifted into a virtual program showcasing eight videos through the city’s website.

“The whole purpose and goal of this when we began was to connect residents with their local government because city government is the closest government to the people,” said Tiffany Thorndike, executive assistant to the mayor, city council and city administration. 

Ms. Thorndike, who has been involved since the program’s inception, is co-managing this year’s academy with Allie McWilliams. Ms. McWilliams, the city’s new community engagement coordinator, will oversee the program in the future.

The citizen’s academy “is an opportunity to see what each department does but in a fun and active way,” Ms. Thorndike told the QCBJ. “Each session is very interactive, it’s never the same (experience) for each session.”

Participants, who are selected through a competitive application process, will have a chance to tour Davenport City Hall, observe police and fire training simulations, visit the Scott Emergency Communications Center (SECC) and learn all the workings of the various city departments, she added. 

Since it began, the program has had about 125 residents graduate from DavenportU. In fact, the upcoming nine-week session will end with a graduation ceremony at the May 25 Davenport City Council meeting.

Ms. Thorndike said past participants have increased their engagement with the city, joining some of its community boards and commissions, leading neighborhood projects and even becoming regular attendees at the city council meetings. 

Due to COVID-19, she said the cohort is being limited to 15 participants this year – down from its traditional 25. Davenport residents are given preference in the application process and participants must be 18 or older. As part of the selection process, she said organizers ensure that every ward in the city is represented in the class as well as participants from varying backgrounds. 

Classes will be held on Monday nights to accommodate those who work in the day with one exception, Ms. Thorndike said. A full-day session will be held on a Friday when the cohort meets with the public works department. During that session, they visit the public works department and get to fill a pothole. It also includes a tour of the city’s water pollution control plant, which she said “is a highlight” and where people get to learn “what happens after you flush the toilet or take a shower.” 

Online applications for DavenportU now are being accepted at davenportiowa.com/citizensacademy. The deadline is Friday, Feb. 25. There is no cost to participate.  

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