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L.E.A.D. program celebrates first graduation

DULUTH - Reality television, meet reality government. And because of this reality government some of Duluth's more engaged residents now know a whole lot more about how their city works.

Standing for learn, engage, advance Duluth, the city's L.E.A.D. program celebrated its first graduation Oct. 28 at the Parc at Duluth.

Managed and implemented by city staff over the course of six weekly classes, the idea was the brainchild of council member Marsha Anderson Bomar.

"I am so pleased with the caliber of people who showed interest in this program and have a commitment to the continuous improvement of our great city," Anderson Bomar said. "The future is very bright with these new future leaders."

According to Nicole Love, a newcomer to the city and a graduate of the program, the experience was tremendous.

"I enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot about government," Love said. "I'd highly recommend this program to the citizens of Duluth and Mayor Harris and Councilwoman Bomar should be commended for pulling this off."

During each week that the class met, Love said the group learned about how the city functions and manages its daily operations. She said they learned about law enforcement, how city council and the court works, how recommendations are brought to the table at council meetings and how votes are secured and conducted once an idea has been set in motion. She said they even held a mock city council meeting where she got to play the part of the director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Because of that, Love said she'd like to apply to the different city boards and maybe even one day make a run at city council.

"It's important to be informed," she said. "It's not enough to just voice your concerns."

Love said she discovered the program by seeing a posting for it at City Hall after she'd moved there from Rockdale. She said the next thing she knew, she applied and received an e-mail that she was accepted. She also said she had no idea how long some of the people working for the city had been there.

"It's a very grounded city and they do a lot to engage the citizens and I like that," Love said. "They have lots of programs that reach out to the community and it's really not transient."

Love said other municipalities should take notice.

"I'd suggest to other cities that if they can do this, they should," she said.

Duluth's L.E.A.D academy will next be held in the fall of 2009 and consists of six classes. It's made possible by donations from Street Smart Parc at Duluth, John A. Monk C.P.A. and Quick Wash Express Car Wash. For more information, call Alisa Williams at 678-475-3506 or e-mail awilliams@duluthga.net.