Latest Moorhead initiative hopes to boost community involvement in local government

Beyond giving attendees an increased understanding of local government, the program plans to empower citizens to get involved on city boards and/or seek an elected position on city council.

Attendees of Moorhead's Citizen Police Academy speak with an officer.
Submitted photo / City of Moorhead

MOORHEAD — An idea that has resonated with Moorhead's assistant city manager for years is finally coming to fruition in the form of an innovative Citizens Government Academy that is kicking off with applications available now until Feb. 17.

“This is something that (city) staff is doing to connect with the public,” said Mike Rietz, assistant city manager.

Similar to the Citizens Police Academy that has been held in Moorhead for about 25 years, participants in the free Citizens Government Academy will be guided through the various departments within city government through seven interactive weekly sessions.

The end goal, Rietz said, is to empower Moorhead citizens with the knowledge of how their local government functions.

Attendees will be invited to ask questions, give suggestions and share their thoughts throughout the course.


Each week city staff will give a presentation on a different topic and then transition into some hands-on learning activities so attendees can engage with the materials.

“We’re going to try to work everything that we can into (the academy),” Rietz said.

The first session will focus on exploring the roles of city administration and the city council, according to Rietz.

Next, the plan is to dive into how community development happens. Representatives from the city’s engineering department will be in attendance to explain how those planning processes unfold.

The heartbeat of the city, public utilities such as sewer, water and electricity, will be covered, as will the work of the public works department who provide services such as street and park maintenance, forestry services and the sustainability program.

Cheryl Duysen, Moorhead's city prosecutor, will make an appearance to chat with academy attendees while police department representatives walk the class through their various duties.

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Attendees of Moorhead's Police Academy during a tour learning about various law enforcement equipment.
Submitted photo / City of Moorhead

In addition to outings to the Law Enforcement Center and the Water Treatment Plant, attendees will tour Moorhead’s fire station and, during the last day, will take a bus tour around the city to see all the various facilities that the Parks and Recreation Department coordinates.

Beyond providing a better understanding of local government Rietz believes the program will give citizens the opportunity to get more involved in their city, in whatever form that might take.


After meeting various city employees throughout the program, Reitz hopes attendees will be able to build connections that will last beyond the academy.

As for city staff, Rietz expects that they will get as much out of this program as those participating.

“We do (this work) every day,” Rietz said. “We think we know what the important things are (to Moorhead residents), but this may be a way to hear some perspectives on important issues (that) perhaps we’re missing or (learn other) interests that the citizenry has.”

Simultaneously, graduates of the academy might feel driven towards serving in local government themselves, Rietz said, either through a city board or commission, applying for a city job or running for a municipal office like city council.

“The plan is to start doing this on an annual basis,” Rietz said, so that the effects of the program can ripple through the community. “We are trying to get as wide a cross section of the community as possible,” he said.

The application deadline is Feb. 17. However, to keep the class size manageable, they are limiting attendance to the first 24 applicants. All Moorhead residents 18 years or older are encouraged to apply, Rietz said.

Sessions will be held every Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. March 7 through April 18.

Those interested in attending can register through the city of Moorhead’s website . Those with questions can contact the City Manager's Office or call 218-299-5166.


Once the program is completed, attendees will be recognized at a graduation ceremony held during the Moorhead City Council meeting on April 24.

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