End of First Week and Initial Student Impressions

Well, we’ve already arrived at the end of our first week in Amery. As usual, it was a very busy, fast-paced period with moving in, introductions, orientations, and learning about the assigned projects. Our first City Council meeting was also this week, as was a Rotary Club lunch. Here are the students’ reactions as they look forward to the remaining days.

Amery City Council Meeting, June 1

… Upon first glance, Amery is an interesting city.  It is small, but there are a lot of things to do recreation wise.  On Tuesday we met some council members and learned about our projects.  My three projects involve a 5-10 year Parks and Recreation Plan, the urban poultry ordinance and revising the rental housing laws.  The parks and recreation plan looks involved, but it will be extremely beneficial to the city because of the amount of recreational opportunities there are.  The community seems inviting and everyone has been really nice.  The city council meeting was enlightening.  It seemed somewhat monotonous because all of the votes were unanimous with no discussion which made it less exciting than it could be, but I still found it interesting.  The urban poultry ordinance seems very controversial.  There is a lot of stuff coming up really fast with this project because of the meeting in a week.  I feel a little overwhelmed by the speed of these proceedings, but I hope to get used to it.  The amount of projects I have seems like a lot and I am unsure if all will be able to be completed.  I have not yet learned about the housing laws project, but hope to do so within the next week or so.  The Rotary meeting we attended on Thursday the 2nd was interesting.  I had never attended a Rotary meeting before and actually did not know what Rotary was, and am now informed about it.  However, the group seems very beneficial to the community at large.  The projects everyone else is doing seem to be very different, but also will be helpful to the community.  I don’t know how much of the longer, more involved projects, will be completed, but hopefully enough will be done to be of benefit to the community at large.  It will be a fun summer, but also busy.  So far the 8 to 5 days have been hard to get used to, but it will benefit me in the future…. Betsy Scruton (’13).

… I undoubtedly came into Wisconsin with strong preconceptions of the state, but within minutes of being in Amery all of the false misconceptions I had of the city, and the state were dispelled. In the few days that I have lived in Amery I have come to enjoy the city, the people, and the strong sense of community and culture. Throughout the week we were assigned our tasks as city hall interns. I am eager and excited for all three of my projects, which include revising the police policy and procedure manual, revising the city rental housing code, and updating Amery’s zoning map. Outside of our regular duties, we attended our first of two city council meetings. The meeting was very efficient, smoothly navigated, and extremely professional, although there were also some humorous comments along the way. Considering the size of the town, there is an immense number of businesses that all fulfill different functions and appeal to different interests, as expected.  One of the first people that we met here in town was the city administrator, Darcy Long.  I have come to understand that Darcy is a man who knows what he is doing, although at times it seems as if he has a lot on his plate. All-in-all, the first week of the program has been a delight, and I look forward to what is to come from the seven weeks we have left here in good ol’ Amery, Wisconsin…. Adan Hassan (’13).

… My first impression of Amery was that it was a small lake town and it had a lot of charm. The town itself looks exactly like the small town that I pictured before I came up. The city seems to be very conservative and really proud of its old roots. I was surprised to see many of the local stores had not closed because of the recession, especially along the main street because they are not chain stores. Our first full day gave us a very brief summary of what we would be doing these next two months. We also got a small tour of the town and got to see some of the issues it has as well as issues that have already been resolved. Seeing the town from the eyes of a local will help me with the parks and recreation five-year plan. Many of the recreational activities like fishing that the town enjoys are activities that I do not necessarily enjoy. It’s going to be important to look at it from their point of view instead of what I might enjoy. It was interesting to see the Finance Committee meet because it showed me how different small towns’ finances are and how careful they need to be with them. While some of the issues would not warrant a meeting in a large city, they do in a town like Amery. It was intimidating at first because we are the college kids who are interning and I never knew just how people felt about our presence here. That intimidation has subsided after seeing the projects we are working on and just the overall nice manner in which we are treated.  While I wasn’t expecting people to be mean, I did expect people to be hesitant around us. This once again has proven not to be the case, which made the first week very comfortable.

            Our second day of work was very interesting because we were able to take a more extensive tour of some of the city buildings. The most interesting place we visited was the Public Works Department. I never realized before how much the department actually does. In my hometown of Wyoming, Ohio they are not very visible but it seems in Amery that they are. The only time I have really noticed them at home was during the winter when they are plowing the roads. I was very impressed with the efficiency it seemed they had here, especially with fixing our house and doing small projects that the city wants done.   The second day was also a chance to get started on our projects.  The social media policy I will be writing will be fun because I am starting from scratch and they have no policy. I will be able to look at other comparable towns’ policies and try to create the policy from them.  I will still need to make sure that I make it unique for the city of Amery, and I will need to find out how it can be useful for Amery. The tricky part will be separating Amery from the Community Club of Amery. They share the same website right now but they will be separate when it comes to social media pages. This means I need to find other uses for the social media sites instead of just promoting businesses. I will need to figure out how to use Twitter as well because that was something I had never used before this week. I need to find the full capabilities of Twitter before I start writing the policy.

            The third day in Wisconsin was an opportunity for us to learn a lot about what the town offers as well as some of the local culture. Our main project that we completed was taking pictures of every business and vacant lot in Amery. It was interesting for me to see this because I wanted to see how the recession hit Amery. I wasn’t sure if it would be hit as hard because it was such a small city that didn’t rely on a bigger city or major manufacturing. While Amery does have some manufacturing there doesn’t appear to be any huge corporation in town.  Going across downtown it was nice to see small businesses that have not failed. While there was good news about that, there were also numerous vacant shops and buildings in the downtown area. It gave a first-hand look at the effects of a recession on a small town and the unfortunate business owners who can’t survive. We also got to sit in on a Rotary Club meeting. It was very nice to see just how passionate the members were about helping the community and raising money for scholarships. That is one thing I have noticed since I have been here is that almost everyone I have met so far is very proud and passionate about their city. It’s clearly a different life up here compared to my home town; the people seem a lot more relaxed. This was easily seen in the city council meeting as the council was joking around and having fun while still remaining serious and getting their business taken care of.  The City Administrator, Darcy Long, had told us this was how the meeting would go but I didn’t believe it. It was nice to see government officials acting like this since most of the time people consider government officials as very serious… Stuart Zorn (’13).  

LGMIP Interns at the Rotary Club Meeting

 … Hardworking, cooperative, and welcoming are just a few words to describe the hospitable citizens of Amery, Wisconsin. After touring the city of Amery, I am beginning to understand the difficulties that develop within the realms of local government. On the other hand, there are many constructive notions that develop in local government that help many people within any given community. With this in mind, I was able to view some traits in local government by observing Amery’s City Council meeting. Initially, the council discussed matters, such as the selling of local property, developing new ordinances, approving permits for new and current local businesses, and renewing liquor licenses for the several liquor establishments in Amery, Wisconsin.

            At first, these matters seemed miniscule when compared to the matters discussed at the urban level, but essentially political personnel have to address these issues before they develop into obstruct issues in the community. As a result, the city of Amery developed a few key project assignments to each individual intern. Specifically, I am in charge of revising and updating the city’s zoning ordinances, while working with the city planner and plans commission. Additionally, I will help complete sections of the city’s website for Amery’s city government. Aside from individual projects, there are various group projects, such as developing a policy that encourages going paperless for City Council packets by utilizing the iPad, performing a cost benefit analysis of the city, and marketing the city of Amery as a destination area for travelers going to and from Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota. Essentially, marketing the city of Amery will help increase the revenue of local businesses, which promotes expansion and productivity throughout the community. The cost benefit analysis will help target key financial problems in the budget and develop alternative financial measures within various local government departments. Also, developing a policy that encourages environmentally friendly motives will help protect the natural environment that encompasses the city of Amery.

            With this in mind, my interest in pursuing a career in government grew as I noticed the responsibilities and importance of key figures in local government. Generally speaking, nominal issues turned out to be significant components to effectively running a small city. For instance, within the next few weeks, we will discuss the importance of establishing a new chicken ordinance. Interestingly, there are many perspectives regarding the chicken ordinance issue in the city of Amery. Many citizens make excellent arguments on the issue, such as health concerns, noise complaints, and space availability. Essentially, this matter rests in the hands of local government officials; their decision will either create tension or peace between the community and the local government.

            As the City Council meeting concluded, each intern introduced him and herself, discussing each individual project to the Council members. In addition, the City Council meeting was individually recorded and broadcasted live through the Internet. I enjoyed this the most because it showed an effort by Amery’s local government officials in keeping its citizens informed on the current issues that are presented in each City Council meeting. In essence, coming from Chicago, I do not notice the nominal issues surrounding my daily life, but by touring Amery’s city departments, like the Public Works Department, I am developing an understanding and appreciation for the hard work, cooperative commitment, and overall deferential attitudes presented by each local government official and city employee in Amery, Wisconsin that helps keep everybody peaceful and bliss… Cesar Gonzalez (’12).

… During the first few days in Amery, my thoughts were dominated by confusion and uncertainty.   I am not a Political Science major and, in all honesty, I was nervous about my ability to  understand, let alone complete, the projects I would be assigned. Luckily, however, we were  kept busy enough to distract me from focusing on my nerves and, thus far, my fears have not  been recognized. Upon our arrival to city hall on the third day, we were bombarded with numerous names to remember and projects to consider. Coming from a small community, I was      interested in the amount of pride that the city council members and city administrator had in their work and their community. I had never really experienced local government in such a personal way and it was different to see the behind-the-scenes action of local politics. So far, it is apparent that Amery’s City Hall is filled with future- minded people whose ultimate goal is  to carry this small town into the twenty-first century. Considerable attention has been directed towards beefing up the public works department to function in a manner that can service a gradually growing community and efforts have been made to increase the technological capacities of Amery’s government. We have been to several committee meetings, namely the  Public Works and Finance meetings, and have attended June’s city council meeting. The   interpersonal relations within these committees and the council as a whole speaks to the genuine concern each member has for the community and their commitment towards progress. There are plans on the table and actions being taken to implement them, and I am glad to be working in such a driven community.  I have been assigned assorted web based projects as well as the   involved task of developing a Capital Improvement Program for the city’s various departments.   I didn’t even know what Capital Improvement was until I got here, but it is a worthwhile project that will keep the city’s various service assets (i.e., fire trucks, plow trucks, waste water treatment plants, etc.) up to date. I am excited to work with this community and learn new things about inner workings of local government. .. Karl Larew (’11).

 … Since arriving here in the city of Amery Wisconsin, I have been pleased with my new environment and the new people that surround me today. The city is indeed small, but the green landscape of Northwest Wisconsin, starry night skies, and friendly people make the place for me. I’ve spent some of the evenings briefly walking out to enjoy the sunset at twilight. It is there that I get excited to see what the summer unfolds for me. Living in such a small community also gets me excited to think about how our work we do this summer will have such a measurable impact in the lives of Amery’s citizens. We spent the first week getting acquainted with our surroundings and going to a handful of meetings with some of Amery’s organizations for civic engagement, among other things. I was struck by how cohesive the town is and how interconnected people are. My understanding of the community as such was helped when we attended the city council meeting. While sitting I looked around the room quickly, to just scan everyone who was in the room. I realized that the entire government of the city was sitting in this room. While obviously this was a council meeting and so I wasn’t surprised about that alone, but it was the fact that the room was filled with no more than thirty people, including the audience. Every department from public works to the fire department was there including nine city council members. The whole meeting went smoothly, there were no arguments and every measure was passed. Announcements for local events were also part of the business, and it was easy to see how happy the community was with itself. The place seem likes a great place to learn about local government and I feel like I have learned a lot already. The class we are taking on theories and practices of local government is good. And I hope to continue to learn and take my chances on everyday while I am here this summer… Sam Holden (’12).

 

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