(Dec. 6, 2019) Ocean City officials recognized 16 civically engaged citizens on Monday for their completion of a 10-week course known as the Ocean City University program.
“What it does is it gives citizens a behind-the-scenes look at all of the different departments and introduces them to some of our outstanding employees and [it helps them] better understand our government’s role and responsibility,” Ocean City Clerk Diana Chavis said.
The graduates are Mary Jo Breslin, Ted Brown, Al Cardany, Andrea C. Creswell, Jacqueline Friedman, Susan Fuson, Alicia L. Gibson, Barb Hanson, Valerie Herwig, Kathleen A. Nicoll, Pamela Panizari, Richard Panizari, Harriet E. Pilert, Connie Podowski, Eric S. Waterman and Michael Winaker.
The late Kathy Mathias — former assistant to the city manager and city clerk — developed the program more than a decade ago to help bridge the divide between city goverment and citizens.
Citizens interested in the program may register online at oceancitymd.gov.
Students meet every Wednesday beginning the second week of September and for three hours they learn about topics ranging from city finances, public transit, human resources, law and order and public safety.
Chavis acts as the chancellor for the university, and the various department heads are the professors, she said.
There are three degrees: bachelor, master and doctorate in municipal citizenship.
A bachelor student must complete the general course, a master student must do the general course and a citizens police academy and a doctorate student must do both as well as the emergency response team program.
Of this year’s graduates, two, Gibson and Pilert, obtained all three degrees.
Pilert, who became a full-time resident in 2017, said she participated because she felt a duty to learn more about the resort she now called home.
“It’s an excellent program and if you live here full time you should take advantage of it,” Pilert said. “All people do is complain because they don’t understand everything.”
The city once offered the program annually, but interest in the program has declined, Chavis said.
This year was the first year the city offered the program since 2015, and moving forward it will be offered every non-election year.
“My favorite part is being able to showcase the outstanding employees and the organization that we have here in town,” Chavis said. “It makes me feel very proud … because in the end the students are pretty amazed at what we have here in town.”