Town’s Residents’ Education Program Gets a New Name

Leadership Highland Park offers lessons in how government works

For more than 15 years, the town of Highland Park has had a residents’ education program under various names. 

This year, it has been reinvigorated and rebranded as Leadership Highland Park. Participants, ages 18 and older, will meet four times, from February to May, from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of Town Hall.

“The main purpose of it is to engage newer residents, to get them involved with their local government — what goes on within these walls, what we do day to day, and how we can help make their quality of life here in town better,” management assistant Holly Russell said.

“Some people come to the program with the intent of hopefully serving on a board, commission, or the council,” she said. “Others just want to know who’s doing what.” 

“You’re going to be up on your feet, walking around meeting people in the departments.  It’s more than just two hours in a chair.” Holly Russell

The town has partnered with the Community League to help spread the word and engage local historians, Russell said. “There’s a lot of handshaking and getting to know one another.” 

In past years, attendance hovered around 15 to 20. This year, staff capped it at 40 with a waitlist. 

“I still encourage people to get on that waitlist because we will be doing this program again,” Russell said.

This year, the town can count its top staffer among the newbies.

 “This will be my first year to cycle through since I just joined the organization,” said Town Administrator Tobin E. Maples, who is already a fan.

“Government works best when we’re transparent, and we can only be transparent when everyone joins in the process,” he said. “It’s an excellent opportunity for us as employees to hear from the citizens because service demands change on an annual basis as different people move in and out of the community. We learn what’s working and what’s not working, what other services might be out there that we need to be thinking about programming in future years.”

Leadership Highland Park meetings start in the council hall on the second floor of Town Hall for an introductory session, followed by topic-focused tours of the DPS, the library, and other departments. 

“You’re going to be up on your feet, walking around meeting people in the departments,” she said. “It’s more than just two hours in a chair. It’s a really fun program.”

The DPS 101 program grew out of Leadership Highland Park. Dates have yet to be set for this year, but it also lasts four sessions, two hours each, including DPS triple-training, hands-on with fire equipment, EMT equipment, and Search & Rescue.

“It’s a much more active program but just as popular,” Russell said. “We encourage people to do Leadership HP first, then, if interested, to take DPS 101 to learn about our first responders and what they do.”

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