To facilitate better community involvement in the planning process, Albemarle County is reaching out to Woodbrook and other neighborhoods through its newly staffed Department of Community Engagement. To discover how this might benefit Woodbrook residents, we talked with Community Engagement Specialist Emily Kilroy about her work in the community. We caught up with Emily at her office in the Albemarle County Office Building on McIntire road. Our interview was recorded on July 7, 2015.
|Albemarle County Community Engagement Specialist Emily Kilroy speaking at the Neighborhood Leadership Summit in April 2015. Photo: Jody Lewis.|
Listen: Listen to our interview with Emily Kilroy (20m)
"My office specifically works on engaging with the community, making sure that residents have a way to access all the different services and programs that the County is running," said Kilroy during our interview. Kilroy is also responsible for collecting public comment and does the detective work, if needed, to find the best person who can answer a question from the public. Kilroy is often the contact person for the County's AMail email list. The AMail system allows County residents to subscribe to both general County news as well as many specific topics. According to Kilroy, the AMail system currently has about 4500 subscribers.
Getting people involved on issues in the earliest stages of planning is a priority for Kilroy. "I think the main purpose of my position is to make sure that people find out about things before there is a big problem," said Kilroy. "Typically, when there is a big question, or a big development project coming to the area, residents will show up at a Planning Commission meeting or a Board of Supervisors meeting on the night that it's being decided," she added. Kilroy went on to say that the earlier in the development process a concern is raised the more likely a solution can be found that will satisfy everyone involved.
Filling positions on County boards and commissions is an important part of Kilroy's job. "The ones that I'm most closely involved with sort of fall into two buckets, one are citizen advisory committees and the other are special issue committees," said Kilroy. She added that citizen committee meetings are open to the public, making them a good way to meet your neighbors and other stakeholders who have an interest in a particular planning area. Meetings are usually held monthly in the evenings and run from 90 minutes to two hours.
Some Woodbrook residents say they don't volunteer for advisory committees because the committees don't take their input seriously. "I think the commitment by the County to really take citizen committees seriously can be seen in the creation of my position, which for many years was vacant," said Kilroy. "This Board of Supervisors has been very receptive to hearing from citizen committees."
One committee that might interest Woodbrook residents is the Places 29 (RIO) Community Advisory Committee, which has vacancies at the time of this writing. The Committee works on transportation and development questions. Interested residents can apply to join the committee here.
For Woodbrook residents who would like to see a committee in action right now, the Water Resources Funding Advisory Committee is working throughout the summer on public engagement outreach. Their next meeting is July 21, 2015, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at the Northside Library. Greg Harper, the water resources manager for the County, will give a presentation on the Committee’s work, with time afterwards for questions and comments from the audience.
Woodbrook residents are encouraged to contact Emily with their questions or comments by telephone at 434-296-5841 Ext. 3422 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.