Civic Engagement Academy pulls back the curtain on City government

single-meta-cal January 18, 2023

Want to learn more about your City government? Huntsville’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has a program that’s perfect for you.

The Civic Engagement Academy (CEA) is a series of free classes where citizens can engage with City leaders and learn multiple ways of getting involved with local government. The six-week program offered each spring and fall introduces a broad spectrum of residents to municipal leaders and departments to build relationships and improve access to the City of Huntsville.

Now accepting applications at, the City is prepping for its spring cohort, set to kick off in early March and continue through the end of April.

On the fence about applying? Check out these testimonials from the program’s fall 2022 graduates:

Katie Lorenze

Lorenze, a transplant from Wisconsin who moved to Huntsville in late 2019, wanted to get more involved in her community. With a background in public policy, Lorenze said she’s always had an interest in good government.

“I think it’s the bedrock of a functioning society,” she said. “Democracy only works if citizens participate, so I feel a really strong sense of civic duty.”

Katie Lorenze

Katie Lorenze.

Eager to learn more about how the City of Huntsville government works, Lorenze applied to the CEA and was accepted to its first class. Lorenze, a mom who is putting down roots in Huntsville with her husband, was blown away by all that she learned.

Not only does she have a better understanding of municipal government in Huntsville, she also made connections she hopes will last a lifetime.

“I gained a deeper sense of community – something I’ve been trying to cultivate since moving here,” said Lorenze, who relocated to Huntsville just before the COVID-19 pandemic, which made forming relationships challenging. “Feeling more connected to where I live is something I really care about.”

From visiting the City’s wastewater treatment plant to hearing all about Huntsville’s new Music Initiative, Lorenze said the CEA was as diverse as it was educational. She encourages anyone who lives in Huntsville to apply.

“We all have a vested interest in how our City is run,” Lorenze said. “Learning more and actively participating in governance is how we keep society functioning.”

Jason Guyton

Originally from St. Louis, Guyton has lived in the Tennessee Valley for more than 20 years. The father of four, who was recently inducted into the Howard University Athletic Hall of Fame, works for Avadian Credit Union and operates Guyton Wrestling.

Guyton was excited to join the CEA, which promotes a deeper understanding of City government through intimate conversations and activities with administrators, department heads and community leaders.

Jason Guyton

Jason Guyton.

“This academy requires action, meaning you get out of it what you put into it,” he said. “Attending the different sessions, taking in what the City is doing, creating or trying to repair, and then taking it to the next level, especially after you graduate. It’s about staying in touch with people and really trying to make an impact.”

Learning about the City’s judicial process, how the Administration and City Council work together, and the technology improvements at Public Transit was eye-opening for Guyton. He also appreciated Mayor Battle and other City leaders taking time to attend the sessions and answer questions.

“It was like a family environment,” he said. “There was no question they left unanswered, regardless if it was a passionate question or a question of frustration for someone. They took their time and did a great job interacting with us and letting us have that behind-the-scenes feel of being part of the City process.”

Asked whether he would encourage others to join the CEA, Guyton had no hesitations.

“If you want to truly know how Huntsville City works, this is for you,” he said. “This is where you should be.”

Jimmie Sapp

As commander of the Gentry Isom VFW Post 2702, Sapp spends much of his time giving back to the community. The organization he oversees assists vets with VA claims, hosts food drives, coordinates veteran visits, and handles public outreach through projects promoting patriotism, service and respect for our veteran community.

Naturally, Sapp was a great fit for the academy.

Jimmie Sapp

Jimmie Sapp.

“I would recommend that anyone who wants to know how the City of Huntsville functions, this would be the class for them to see,” he said.

Getting a behind-the-scenes look at City government was gratifying for Sapp, who also enjoyed building relationships with citizens he might not normally encounter.

Sapp said listening to their stories and the questions they asked was particularly helpful as a servant leader in Huntsville.

“This (experience) has shown me the right people to talk to, and showed me how to get in contact with them with any questions,” he said.

Are you ready to get started? Visit our website to apply to the CEA. Hurry – the deadline for the spring cohort is Feb. 6!