Mayor for a day: W.L. McLeod students learn what it takes to run a town

By Michelle Miller-Gauthier

A class of Grade 5/6 students from Vanderhoof’s W.L. McLeod Elementary School have been busy learning about municipal governance.

During the October muncipal election, the students kept track of news stories and practised writing persuasive essays about local issues.

Each class held their own election with volunteer students running for council seats and a mayoral seat by presenting their essay as a platform for their fellow students to consider. On election day, each class employed student voting clerks, scrutineers and officials and ballots were cast.

The class’ final event event was a visit to the municipal offices, where Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen and staff met the students, provided a tour and supported a mock council meeting for each of the four classes taking part.

Students from each class had prepared an issue to present to their student mayor and council, which was debated, considered and voted on. The four different issues students chose to address were ways to make Vanderhoof an even better place to live. The proposed ideas were:

1) Create an official dog park for pet owners

2) Build a recreation centre near the pool

3) Rezone to allow convenience stores, gas bars and restaurants on the north side of the river

4) Build an animal shelter for strays and unwanted pets

The mayors and council members from each class asked the delegations very relevant and important questions during the presentations. For example, the delegations were asked about the cost of their ideas, the source of funding, and location for the dog park and animal shelter considering the noise they might create. They wondered about ongoing costs, like staffing and training.

Mayor Thiessen was extremely impressed by their ‘adult-like’ discussions and their professional conduct while in the building. We are so proud of our learners!

“I really enjoyed each class. … This is an opportunity that can make a difference long into the future. [The teachers] have done a great job working with these young people, they were very respectful and well informed, said the mayor via email.

Some special moments were when Zoe Dhillon attended with a gift of colour photos of the pool and answered students’ many questions. Fire Chief Ian Leslie attended a couple meetings to answer questions and explain the fire department’s responsibilities. Students were duly impressed with the roles each of these important staff members and their teams play in our town. W.L. McLeod would like to extend a huge thank you to Mayor Thiessen and the staff for hosting us and helping us learn more about our town, the council and its important responsibilities.

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