A lifelong Auburn resident has recently begun reaching out to community and neighborhood groups while gaining a better understanding of the inner-workings of the city in his role as the public affairs neighborhood specialist.
AJ Harris, who recently moved into the neighborhood specialist job after working for almost five years in the utility billing office of Auburn Water Works, was born in Auburn and graduated from Auburn High School in 2007 before earning his degree in Public Administration at Auburn University.
"Everything that I had applied for I wanted something like this but there wasn’t a job out there that really fit," said Harris, who lives in Auburn with his wife and two children. "When this one came up and I read the job description, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. I have the relationships in the community. I know a lot of the dynamics in the organization, outside of the organization, and it’s something I really want to do.
"It’s amazing to be honest with you. Growing up here and being able to impact my community, it’s something that I really wanted to do through Public Administration."
Harris' primary duty will be to serve as a resource for neighborhoods and community groups in Auburn, informing them of pertinent information, including city projects, plans, events and initiatives.
"Regardless of what’s on paper, what we needed is someone with the knowledge of Auburn, with the passion for Auburn; certainly, knowledge inside the organization also helps because I think AJ’s reaching out as much internally to get information that he can share with folks and to be well-informed and strategize," said David Dorton, director of Public Affairs. "A lot of neighborhood groups and community groups will be hearing from AJ so we can try to help get them the information they need."
Harris has hit the ground running, learning the dynamics inside the city government, including about capital improvement projects and the Community Development Block Grant program.
"Just getting the real fine details so when I’m out in the community and I get asked questions or I see stuff, I can have the information that I can pass along," said Harris, who has also begun reaching out to homeowner associations and neighborhood groups, including Community Citizens for Change, to build his contacts in the community.
Harris is currently developing two new city initiatives that he hopes to introduce this year —a Citizens City Academy Program and a neighborhood conference, a one-day event where residents can hear presentations and participate in different topical sessions.
The Citizens Academy will be an educational program that will give residents the opportunity to learn about all aspects of city government. It will join the city's two other educational programs — the Public Safety Academy and the Planning Academy.
The Citizens Academy will likely be held annually if there is enough interest from residents, Harris and Dorton said.
"This gives someone a chance to see everything, see the big picture," added Dorton.
The first Citizens Academy is scheduled to take place this fall.
"This job is giving me a great way to have a positive impact, to bridge that gap between the working side of it within the city organization and the community side of it. It’s really just a blessing," Harris said.
For those who want to reach out to Harris, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 334-501-7327.