Murrieta kicks off inaugural citizens’ leadership academy

Participants in Murrieta’s inaugural Citizens’ Leadership Academy look on while city staff introduce themselves and the program. Valley News/Will Fritz photo

The city of Murrieta kicked off its very first Citizens’ Leadership Academy, which will walk members of the Murrieta community through the intricacies of City Hall, Saturday, March 7.

The free academy runs for eight consecutive weeks, and its approximately 30 students will get a chance to learn about a different city department every week. Participants include Murrieta residents, as well as those who have a business or work in town. Registrations closed March 6.

On Saturday, participants were introduced to Murrieta Mayor Gene Wunderlich, city manager Kim Summers, assistant city manager Ivan Holler, city clerk Stephanie Smith and assistant to the city manager Louie Lacasella. Academy students also got a chance to tour City Hall and other city facilities in Murrieta’s Town Square, including the Murrieta Public Library and Murrieta Senior Center.

“Informed and engaged citizens are key to a thriving city,” Wunderlich said in a news release announcing the academy. “We’ve run very successful police and fire academies. Now we are bringing that concept to City Hall. Whether you are an aspiring commission or council member, a curious resident or a business owner, this series will leave you more connected and with a greater understanding of how we work.”

During the first session, Smith said the idea for a separate city hall-related academy came from other jurisdictions where city staff have worked that offer similar academies.

“City manager Kim Summers, as well as myself and Louie, in other jurisdictions where we’ve worked, we’ve had citizens; academies for general government. A city hall leadership academy where you learn an overview of the entire organization,” Smith said. “And so, it’s been something that she’s wanted to implement for many years and we’re really excited about that.”

In the coming weeks, participants will be schooled on the city manager’s office, community services, development services, the city clerk’s office, public works, finance/administrative services and public safety services.

After completing the program, each participant will be recognized at the Murrieta City Council’s Tuesday, May 5, meeting. Anyone who completes the leadership academy as well as the city’s police and fire academies – which are all held annually – will be recognized as a “city ambassador.”

Will Fritz can be reached by email at