Orange County Government, Florida
24 September 2014
Orange County Experience Program Engages Citizens in Local Government
Participants in the Orange County Experience discuss County services during the first
meeting of the 12-week program

For the third year, local citizens eagerly signed up to join the Orange County Experience, a program that enables residents to become more engaged in local government and teaches them how to navigate County services.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs assisted in kicking-off the citizen engagement program, a 12-week series encouraging citizen participation in their government. With more than 30 participants, the current class has the largest number of attendees since its inception in 2012.

“I’m always excited when people share my passion in wanting to learn about local government,” Mayor Jacobs said. “This 12-week program will help citizens to learn more about who we are as a county, including our services and the technology that’s available to help navigate our system. Equally important is the opportunity to meet our talented county staff, and to witness their dedication to their jobs, and to serving our citizens.”

With an estimated 1.2 million residents and 59 million visitors, Orange County is one of the largest counties in Florida. Orange County is home to world-class theme parks and the second largest university in the nation, the University of Central Florida. Orange County Government operates with an annual budget of more than $3.4 billion, with 80 divisions and 7,445 employees.

“It is important to me to learn more about how Orange County and the government functions,” said Demetrius Smith, one of the attendees who is also serving on the Orange County Citizens Commission for Children and the Parks & Recreation Advisory Boards. “I serve on two boards so some of the information I’ve already been exposed to, but I wanted to learn more, in greater detail, about what each division specifically does.”

Over the 12-week course, participants will meet staff members at Orange County and take tours of the Orange County Convention Center, Fire Rescue, Parks & Recreation and more. They will also get to see a behind-the-scenes facilities tour of the world-famous reality television series “Dr. G: Medical Examiner.”

“This is our biggest class to date,” said Orange County Experience Director Carol Burkett. “This is an exciting opportunity for me to interact with our citizens from such diverse backgrounds.”

Sharon Warner is also one of this year’s participants. Over the summer, Warner won the 2014 Mayor's Distinguished Citizen of the Year award. Warner is the founder of Family & Friends United, Inc., a program that was started locally more than 20 years ago. The program gives children the tools they need to better deal with challenging situations they may encounter at school and outside the home.

Over the years, hundreds of children have participated in Warner’s program and many have graduated from college or entered the military after their time with Family & Friends United.

“I’ve lived in Orange County all of my life,” Warner said. “I wish I could have learned about our government earlier, but this is a great opportunity to learn about Orange County’s government. I want to know everything there is to know about the government and community where I live and raise my children.”

The 12-week class lasts through December 12. For more information visit our Orange County Experience page.