A ceremony was held last week to celebrate the newest graduates of the Dawson County Citizens Academy.
Members of the class graduated on Nov. 17 after completing a 10-week program that took them through the ins and outs of local government. Thirteen out of 19 eligible graduates were present and honored during the ceremony at the board of commissioners regular work session.
Weekly meetings included dinner and guest speakers from all the county departments, including the courts, planning and zoning, county clerk, senior center, tax assessor's office, emergency services and more.
The group also toured the sheriff's office, where they were taken inside the jail and learned about the county's punitive system.
According to Dawson County Sheriff-elect Jeff Johnson, the office has plans for a Citizens Police Academy come 2017.
One of the graduates, Karen Twitchell, said she and her husband Ted, who also graduated, moved up to Dawsonville from Florida two years ago.
Twitchell said she decided to participate in the academy to learn about the differences between Dawson County government and the one she left behind.
"I've learned so much," Twitchell said. "Unless you do something like this you don't know about all of the little things the county government does and the services they provide. To get everything done it really does take a group effort. For example, seeing how the sheriff's office, the judges, the district attorney and the public defender all function separately gave a really balanced view of what goes on in our court system."
Twitchell is a retired teacher and librarian, so naturally the academy's stop at the public library was the most interesting to her.
"I loved learning about the library, they're very forward-thinking to rent out video games and tents and telescopes and other technology," she said. "They really do have everything there."
Another Citizen Government Academy class will begin next fall, according to Ginny Tarver, assistant to the county manager. The only qualifications are that participants be Dawsonville residents. To graduate, participants must attend nine out of the 10 classes.
This year's graduates were:
Wayne Williams Sr.