Linda Webb has been a Charlotte resident since 2008. As a regular community volunteer, she has always wanted to learn more about her government and how to get more involved in helping to make Charlotte a better place. So, when she had the chance to participate in the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA), she dove in.
The CLA is a free program specifically designed for Charlotte residents who are ready to take the next step in being community leaders and improving the quality of life in all of Charlotte's neighborhoods. Due to the pandemic, Linda participated in the first-ever virtual academy, as part of Cohort 7.
Cohort 7 of the CLA was a group of 35 Charlotteans that represented neighborhoods in all seven Council districts, from Ballantyne to Berewick, Citiside to Clanton Park, Davis Lake to Dilworth, Forest Pond to Lakewood, Wilmore to University, and communities in between.
Linda appreciates the importance of diversity in the CLA. "The more diversity we have in these leadership academies, the more successful we can be because you're able to gather different perspectives," she said.
During the academy, participants had the opportunity to grow in their leadership, analyze issues using data, connect with decision makers and other Charlotte leaders, and make a difference in their communities. Each class had speakers focused on these issues, as well as representatives from various city departments. In each of these sessions, participants were able to move past what they heard on the news and to learn more about the operations of these departments and have the opportunity to ask questions to the staff that does this work every day.
Linda especially enjoyed the session with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and having the opportunity to speak with an officer directly. "He answered all of our questions, and he was very transparent. It gave me a more positive outlook on the police department, and I was able to learn more about the police department. I have a better comfort level on some of the processes at CMPD and am more educated now…It was a win-win," she continued.
She also particularly enjoyed learning more about Aviation. "A lot of people don't realize that the airport falls under the function of the City of Charlotte. We learned more about some of the functions of the different departments [at the airport] and what they do, and how COVID-19 affected the operations of airport," she said.
She also appreciated learning more about Finance and Budget. "It was very educational. There is so much going on in Finance and Budget. I like that citizens have the opportunity to express where funds should be allocated. That tells me that you'd like me to be engaged, and the city is being really transparent," she said.
The CLA not only helped Linda learn more about her local government, but also inspired her to get more involved. "It encouraged me to get more involved in city council and county commissioner meetings. I use Zoom now to listen to those meetings. And with the 2040 Comprehensive Plan coming up, I'm doing a lot of research on that as well," she said.
Using her newfound knowledge and understanding of local government, Linda decided she wanted to join a city board or commission. She was recently appointed as a new member of the Transit Services Advisory Committee, which focuses on the day-to-day operations of the transit service to ensure that it meets the needs of the community.
"I utilize the light rail and I ride the express bus when I go to work," she said. "What better way to learn more about CATS than to be a part of this [committee]?"
At her first meeting, she learned that she can submit ideas and suggestions to this committee, including anything she would see or hear, or if citizens share information with her about the light rail, local or express buses.
Throughout this experience, Linda emphasized that the more people can learn, the more opportunities they have to get involved to shape the community around them and make it better for everybody.
As a recent CLA graduate and a newly appointed committee member, she is ready to educate more community members about opportunities to learn more and get involved in local government.
"The CLA has afforded me additional knowledge about city government," she said. "And you know what they say; knowledge is power, so I don't mind sharing the knowledge."