Last week, the City of Lacombe played host to 12 Grade 6 students who spent the afternoon at City Hall learning about how the City and council work as part of Lacombe’s annual Mayor for a Day program.
Brandon Williamson, a Grade 6 student from Wolf Creek Academy taking part in the program, said he greatly enjoyed the afternoon and learned a lot from the experience.
“It has been the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” said Williamson. “It was awesome.”
He said that his favourite part of the afternoon was getting to see first-hand what it is that City councillors and staff do to keep Lacombe running. In particular, he enjoyed touring the offices and how open the mayor was in informing the students about how things work.
Mayor Steve Christie began the Mayor for a Day program in 2011, modeling it after the provincial MLA for a Day program. Each Grade 6 class in Lacombe is invited to participate and all 12 schools with Grade 6 classes have been involved since last year.
Students are invited to submit essays to City Hall discussing why they would like to be mayor and what they would do if they were elected.
The authors of the best essays, one from each school, are then selected to be a Mayor for a Day.
During the day, the young mayors tour City Hall and the public works offices and participate in a mock council meeting to learn a little about how the City operates.
It is important to get people engaged in politics to some degree at an early age, said Christie. Getting children involved with Mayor for a Day helps instill an interest in them to be informed about the political process and that interest grows as they develop.
Therefore, by the time these children are adults and ready to participate in the political process for real, they are much more informed and have a tendency to stay that way.
“Helping them understand what we do as elected officials I think helps them understand what it takes to make a community run,” said Christie.
He added the program is not the only thing teaching kids about government.
He gave kudos to the education system and said that the Grade 6 curriculum also goes to great lengths to inform children about the political process.
During the mock council meeting held as part of the afternoon, the young mayors discussed topics from an agenda derived from items they had spoken about in their essays. Williamson said he was surprised to learn that many of the discussions held during the mock council meeting are along the same lines and about the same topics as those held in actual council meetings.
Williamson added that he enjoyed being given a voice on issues facing the City through the mock council meeting.
“We got to have our say in what the community would become.”
He said participating in this program has sparked an interest in him to continue staying up to date on local issues and how the City deals with them. He added that he is even considering running for a real seat on council when he grows up.