Citizens getting involved in and learning about local government.

Public Information Officer Neal Wagner and City Administrator Brian Binzer were looking for ways to make local government more accessible to its residents. Binzer had seen cities in the Atlanta area operate citizen academy programs, and the two saw this as an opportunity to create something special for Alabaster. Hence the Alabaster Academy was born. This fall marks the Academy’s third anniversary. Wagner answered a few questions about this unique program.

Why is an Academy important?

It’s a great way for residents to learn how their local government really works. We give them an in-depth look at each city department over the course of several months. It ends up creating more engaged citizens who can then spread that information in their neighborhoods and throughout the community.

What sorts of things do participants learn?

They learn the ins and outs of every single city department, the Alabaster Water Board, and Alabaster City Schools. They get to learn the life cycle of a book at the Albert L. Scott Library, see and use fire and police department tools, tour the Public Works shop, and much more.

How do I register?

We begin taking applications on the city’s website in late July each year. We’ll post the links on and on our social media channels once the application period begins.

What sort of feedback have you gotten from graduates?

It’s been all positive! We often hear that residents had no idea how much it takes to operate a city and keep city services operating successfully. (See in their own words below.)

Do graduates typically stay involved after the course is over?

Absolutely! Several Government Academy graduates are now serving on city boards, and the City Council often looks at the list of Government Academy graduates first when considering appointments to boards.

What is the time commitment?

The classes are two Thursdays a month (only one in December) between September and February. Classes are from 6-7:30 p.m. every other Thursday.

Does the class ask questions?

They always ask great questions, and we encourage it! We always set aside time during each academy night to allow them to ask as many questions as they’d like.

Is there a class-size limit?

We typically try to keep it between 30 and 35 attendees.

Is there a cost to attend?

It’s totally free for participants! We also provide dinner for the participants at each class.

Taylor Christensen offers her perspective on attending the Academy:

“I work in the Accounts Payable/Accounting Department at a local bank and found out about the Alabaster Government Academy by email in 2022. I moved here in 2016 from Alexandria, Louisiana, and I wanted to know more about my community and the departments of the city. I enjoyed learning what each department does and taking a tour of the facilities. Alabaster has built so many new buildings, it’s nice to see where our tax dollars are being used. Plus dinner before the meetings helped a lot! Especially when we were at Thompson High until 10 p.m. (I’m laughing, not trying to complain!) I would recommend others take this class. You will find out interesting information about the operations and workings of the city and about special programs I did not know the city offers. Two surprising things I learned were that if there is a train passing and emergency vehicles cannot get to you, the Alabaster Fire Dept. will ask Helena or Pelham for help. And learning about the Flock Cameras that are placed around town was very interesting! They help identify vehicles passing through an area and locate missing persons/Amber Alerts, robbery/stolen cars, and more.”

The 3rd-annual Alabaster Government Academy begins in mid-September and meets twice a month through mid-February. A full schedule will be provided to individuals selected to participate in the program. Register here: