The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 5, 2013

Blue Earth County Citizens Academy set to graduate 100th student



She’s gotten all of that, including chances to quiz the people who run the Human Services Department, the highway workers, Sheriff Brad Peterson, a county prosecutor, the taxpayer services/elections staff and the five members of the County Board, among others.

“The fact that all the managers took the time to be there on Tuesday nights to answer all our questions, I loved that,” said Depuydt, a lifelong county resident who lives on Mankato’s eastern edge.

Greg Brandt, an employee of FPX (formerly Firepond) in Mankato, signed up for the academy after hearing positive reviews from a co-worker who is an alum.

“I feel if you want to provide an opinion, either pro or con, you need to be informed,” Brandt said. “And if you’re going to be critical, you need to do it from an informed perspective.”

The Eagle Lake resident sees the academy as another step in making county government more accessible to its residents. He applauds the board’s decision to finally begin broadcasting its meetings, held almost exclusively during weekday workday hours, on local access television.

While Brandt hints at a civic-duty motivation for enrolling in the academy, he said it’s been far from a monotonous set of Tuesday nights.

“What you think might be a long haul, all of a sudden the night is gone,” he said.

It helps that the academy moves around. It’s at the historic courthouse in the first week for a discussion with the board, followed by a focus on health and welfare programs at the county government center. Week three is held at the justice center, highlighted by a tour from the sheriff and a courtroom discussion about criminal prosecutions with an assistant county attorney.

At the county highway building in week four, students get to check out the heavy equipment and learn about the roads, bridges, parks and trails the county maintains. Another session is held at the county library. This year’s tour of the landfill, recycling center and household hazardous waste facility was postponed by one of April’s snowstorms.

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