As an intern with the City of Alma, Justin Judge experienced firsthand the challenges and rewards of promoting meaningful community engagement.
In his role as volunteer/community coordinator, Justin found innovative ways to interact with local citizens. The Park Playoff Bracket serves as an example.
Justin helped plan and promote the bracket. It started with eight community parks in Alma, and each week community members voted for their favorite park via the volunteer program’s Facebook page until there was one left. The winning park — Alma Riverwalk — hosted a volunteer appreciation event.
The internship was brought to Justin’s attention by Benjamin Peterson, visiting assistant professor of history and political science, who had been talking with Matthew Schooley, Alma’s City Manager. Justin, a political science major from Mount Pleasant, has an interest in small town politics and public administration; the position was fitting.
“This experience made my love of public administration even stronger,” says Justin, who enjoyed being able to interact with both city staff as well as community members.
As part of working with the city’s government, his average day included reaching out to volunteers, creating opportunities and researching community engagement.
One project that stood out to Justin was researching and creating a handbook to be used in the program. One challenge he met while writing it was having to watch for liabilities.
“I learned a lot about how the community engages with a government organization in a small town,” says Justin. “It’s eye-opening to see things from an inside perspective.”
Additionally, Justin learned to keep an open mind and listen to community concerns to find mutual ground. He would like to do something similar to this in the future.
“I enjoyed hearing ideas from the community and seeing what some people prioritized over others,” says Justin. “I enjoyed seeing community members come together to create a better community.”
Even though his internship is over, Justin continues to help the program as events come up. Recently, he helped with the Keep Alma Beautiful fall clean-up day.
“Justin’s success at the City of Alma is truly amazing,” says Peterson. “I cannot count the number of city workers, elected officials and community leaders who have told me that he has been a hugely positive asset to our community.”
As part of the internship, Justin worked with Brett Baublitz, director of transportation, at the Alma Transit Center.
“I believe Justin’s experience here at Transit will help him when dealing with the public,” says Baublitz. “He was in constant communication with some very difficult people. He excelled at these personal interactions and getting them where they needed to go while maintaining his professionalism.”