If you spend any time on social media, you know there’s no shortage of criticism of local government from folks who have never attended a public meeting or communicated directly with an elected official. The good news is that there are also some who are willing to devote time to learning about municipal government and hope to use that knowledge to make positive change.
Farragut’s Intro to Farragut class has been offering this opportunity since 2013, and this year’s class is the largest to date with 23 participants. It’s notable, given the time commitment. Attendees are required to attend five classes, a Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting and Municipal Planning Commission meeting, and participate in a class project. Class topics includes history, government structure, public safety and volunteer opportunities. This year’s project is cleaning and painting at Farragut High School.
This year, like every year, class members participate for a variety of reasons. Marissa Psencik is a new resident who wants to get to know her town better. She moved here in February from New York, and she’s never lived in a place with a mayor and aldermen before. She wanted to better understand how the town works and learn more about Farragut’s history since she plans to stay and raise her kids here.
She especially enjoyed the history class, taught by retired Farragut Middle School teacher Frank Galbraith.
“I thought I had a handle on it, but now I realize I have so much more to learn,” she says. “Frank Galbraith is my new favorite person.”
She’s also been impressed by town staff. It’s different from big government bureaucracy she’s seen in the past, she says.
“It’s people who have an opportunity to make things better and actually do it.”
After living in a melting pot, Marissa thought Farragut lacked diversity, but the class has made her realize her community has more variety than she thought. She’s enjoyed getting to know her classmates better by socializing with them after class.
John Hoffman, long-time Farragut resident and retired UT professor, is also part of this year’s class. He’s volunteered in the Farragut Museum and has served on committees to revise the sign ordinance and create an aesthetic plan to address 5G towers. Even with all this experience, he thinks there’s more to learn about how to get things done.
“I’ve gotten very useful information about how things work and who makes them work. If you want to be a change agent, you need to know this,” he says.
He also sees the class as a valuable networking opportunity. In addition to meeting representatives from the town, he’s enjoyed getting to know others from the community and learning why they are engaged.
Mayor Ron Williams has always been an advocate for Intro to Farragut. He took the class himself in 2015 and thinks it’s a great way to inspire people to serve on one of the town’s volunteer boards and committees.
It’s also a tool for combating the misinformation shared on social media by those who spend more time typing and less time learning the facts.
“Becoming educated about how the town functions will allow you to speak knowledgeably about how and why things get done in Farragut. You can help educate the community by passing the things you learn on to your neighbors.”
Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.