Zach Navin with the City of Mequon, WI – LinkedIn and Twitter wrote “Be Like Superman: Give a City Hall Tour,” about the benefits of hosting elementary school students at city halls to promote understanding of municipal services. He concluded his blog by asking how we can get this same excitement from high school, and or undergraduate students to help the attract students into the local government profession. Here’s a great response from Mayor Dorothy Knauss, from Chewelah, Washington.
I have instituted a ‘Students in Government’ project each year. The local High School Civics Class holds an election for Mayor and 7 Councilmembers. The Mayor then appoints: a Clerk/Treasurer, Attorney, Fire Chief, Police Chief and City Administrator, as well as appropriate committees. This happens in December.
A local attorney joins me in this project. Together we create three scenarios which require committee meetings to bring a solution to the full ‘council’. Then, typically at the real City Council meeting in February, we hold a mock city council meeting just prior to our meeting.
Our full council attends, as well as many from the public and, of course, many parents. The newspaper covers this also and the ‘council’ usually ends up on the front page. This meeting is conducted exactly like the regular meeting, and at the end the students can ask questions and receive feedback.
They receive extra credit for participating and/or attending the mock council followed by the regular Council, and afterwards we feed them pizza & pop! The whole goal is to excite students about serving in local government at some level when their education is complete. We have had several who indicated they had never thought about it, but now are thinking they might like it.