Cynthia Curry envisioned the City of Gainesville’s staff and its residents making connections, and that’s what transpired at the first City Services Fair on Saturday.
The event, held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center, was designed for interaction between residents and the city’s directors and employees.
“We want to be able to invite the public and our neighbors and residents in [so] they can walk around and, in their own space and time, meet the directors, meet people who run our services, lodge complaints, learn and be educated a little bit more about what the city provides,” said Curry, the city’s interim city manager.
The daily work grind doesn’t allow for city staff to mingle with residents and this will be the first of many events that will allow that interaction to happen, Curry said.
‘It’s also good internally for our own internal staff to know a little bit more about what’s happening around the city in terms of services,” she said. “We don’t get a chance to do that a lot because we’re so focused on what we come in to do every day—our own inboxes are full—but this gives not only the neighbors an opportunity, but it gives us an opportunity to bond with each other and make sure that we are doing the best we can to communicate and educate the community about our services.”
Events like this aren’t a new thing. Curry pointed to the job fairs the city and Alachua County Public School district host. And the city plans to hold this event quarterly throughout the fiscal year with the next City Services Fair set for September, along with another initiative called Community First.
“Community First is facilitative, innovative, restorative, and timely, that’s what first stands for,” Curry said. “But we’re doing it by neighborhood and we started with Porters. My director for Fire and Rescue Joe Dixon is the neighborhood manager for Porters. He meets with them almost weekly. Whatever concerns and issues they have, they bring them to him, and he works this room, if you will, he works with the services to address their concerns. And so they have him available 24/7.”
Other Gainesville neighborhoods implementing the Community First initiative include Sugar Hill, Pine Ridge and Spring Tree.
“That’s how we get out into the neighborhoods,” Curry said. “But this one [City Services Fair] is obviously more of a colocation of resources so that the community, as they come and participate, can get a feel for what the city does and they can meet people and make those connections. So this is about communications, connections, education, a great place to live, work and experience, and we’re trying to make it that way, and so that’s why we’re here today.”
Today’s event focused on establishing relationships between the city staff and the community.
“I’ve been talking to a guy I met at an event at Duval [neighborhood], and he was concerned about bus routes,” Curry said. “I saw him again today and I said, ‘Did you ever get your situation resolved?’ and he said no. So I brought him right over to the RTS [Regional Transit System] table and seriously, he was able to make that face-to-face contact and get some resolution. I love it.”