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Citizens Academy provides close look into town services

Courses run through Feb. 22 at Longboat Key Town Hall for residents interested in learning about the inner workings of the town government.

Ten residents were present for Wednesday's citizens academy course.
Ten residents were present for Wednesday's citizens academy course.
Photo by Lauren Tronstad
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Malware, hackers and avoiding email scams were among topics of conversation for the second half of Wednesday’s Citizens Academy course at Longboat Key Town Hall. 

The class is part of the annual seven-week session the town provides to residents old and new looking to learn more about the inner workings of the town government.

“You’ll have an opportunity to learn more about your local government, the services and projects that shape the present and future of our town,” the town’s website says

Kim Toryanski has been a full-time resident of the barrier island town for about two years. She heard about the program from friends who had previously attended the courses. 

“I think it really is an excellent way to meet the government officials who serve us,” she said. 

When making the decision to enroll for this year’s set of classes, there was not one particular topic that she recalls piquing her interest. 

“The only one I heard about previously was the ones on emergency services,” she said. “Knowing what they do to help and keep us safe is reassuring.” 

Toryanski was among nine other classmates at Wednesday’s session, which started with Town Attorney Maggie Mooney providing background on the town charter and Florida's open government laws. 

Then, the town’s IT Director Jason Keen took over, sharing internet safety tips and how he ensures the town’s information is secure. 

Not everyone taking the classes was a government rookie, either.

“I have been involved in the town for a number of years, but only had knowledge of the bits and pieces,” said David Lapovsky, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Board. “I was looking for something to put it all together, and this does that.”

Like Toryanski, Lapovsky wasn’t seeking knowledge on a particular topic, but expressed interest in how the community as a whole operates. 

Sessions began Jan. 11 and take place from 9-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays. This year’s courses conclude on Feb. 22. 

Town Manager Tom Harmer has been leading the courses and will do so until he exits his position Feb. 6. Then, new Town Manager Howard Tipton will finish out the remainder of the classes. 

Remaining course topics include: 

  • Jan. 25: Planning and building a premier community, maintaining neighborhood standards 
  • Feb. 1: Support services, beaches 101 
  • Feb. 8: Town facilities, infrastructure and equipment tour 
  • Feb. 15: Police 
  • Feb. 22: Fire rescue

Courses generally remain the same from year to year. 

Even though enrollment is closed for this year’s sessions, interested residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for enrollment for the 2024 Citizens Academy later this year. 



Lauren Tronstad

Lauren Tronstad is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2021. Before moving to Florida, she worked for the Columbia Daily Tribune.

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