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  • Writer's pictureCharles I. Guarria

Port Orange University: Take a look at how government works

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

The City of Port Orange offers a way for residents to get closer to their government, meet elected, non-elected folk who keep the city clicking and make a few friends along the way.

All this and more happens through Port Orange University (POU). A once-a-year, nine-week course that takes a look into how city government operates. Christine Martindale, formerly Port Orange's Public Information Officer, started the program, "It gives them (participants) an overview of basically how our city runs and how it functions."

Highlights include talks at City Hall, tours of parks, and getting up close with the playful dogs from the K-9 Unit.

You can hop into a fire truck or just marvel at the height of the fire truck ladder while listening to tales regarding the training needed to qualify as a firefighter.

Most importantly, you will know your hometown like never before and receive a certificate for participating in the program.

At the most recent certificate presentation, Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette asked, "Would you recommend this for somebody?" The participating group, roughly 22 people for this year's class, resoundingly said yes.

Six-year resident Ronnie Gitlin avails himself of city services through frequent visits to the library. Beyond that, "I had no idea what goes on with the government. How we get our water. How we do this, how we do that. This, to me, was one of the best things that I've ever done."

Kim Harty is involved in the community through her Facebook page, Volusia County Restaurant Reviews. She commented via a Facebook exchange, "I went into the class hoping to learn more about the inner workings of the city, and that expectation was met.'

Ms. Harty noted that many residents are not aware of what the city does. Mr. Gitlin pointed to water as an example of this; he said, "You never really think about where the water comes from or what it has to go through. And just seeing the process of what's involved in it is very intriguing."

The initial idea for POU was thought of by former Port Orange City Manager Jake Johansson. (Mr. Johansson is now serving on the Volusia County Council.) He brought the idea to Ms. Martindale shortly after she began working for the city in the late winter of 2017. By that fall, POU was launched. "I had thirty people my first class," Ms. Martindale recalled, "And it's been ongoing ever since."

More than once, Ms. Martindale mentioned POU being one of the favorite parts of her job "Because it's relationships with the citizens."

Ms. Harty is appreciative of her hard work, "Christine was wonderful to work with and a huge asset to the city."

Covid was a disrupter, as the class was postponed in 2021. Beyond that, it has run every year since 2017, totaling near 150 graduates. "They can go out in the community or on their social media pages or talking to their neighbors and friends and get the accurate information out. And that is the most important thing," said Ms. Martindale.

Click here for more information about POU.

2022 Port Orange University class with city employees, council members, and mayor after receiving graduating certificates.

Photo Courtesy of Christine Martindale

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