Student 'mock' city government close to real thing

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

Elizabethton High School's student council on Friday tried their hand at city government. The students held their own "mock" meeting in the council chambers at City Hall. Ten EHS students acted as council members, mayor, city manager, city attorney, and mayor pro-tem. The program is a brainchild of Elizabethton High School guidance counselor, Anne Rogers, City Manager Charles Stahl and EHS Principal Ed Alexander.
   "We thank Anne Rogers, because without her help this program wouldn't have been able to get back on track," Stahl said. Anne Rogers restarted the program, which has been defunct for the past three years, in order to help students learn the ins and outs of city government. Returning to EHS after teaching at Science Hill, Rogers said she's now "back where she belongs."
   The student city council agenda was patterned after a regular city council meeting. Students began with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance, then roll call and approval of minutes from the previous meeting. "Since our last meeting was held three years ago, we don't feel a need to address those minutes. They happened too long ago," said Whitman Brown, a senior at EHS who acted as mayor.
   When the council heard citizens from the community voice their concerns, two students stepped up to the podium and spoke. The first student addressed a problem that is very real to the city of Elizabethton right now -- loss of revenue for community service organizations. The council assured her they were hoping to get a sales tax referendum on the upcoming ballot. Another student was much more fervent in expressing her requests. She said she wanted a nice restaurant in Elizabethton for once.
   "We don't have liquor by the drink in this town, and most restaurants that we would ask to come here sell liquor by the drink, so we can't do that for you," Student City Manager Bradley Brown responded. Just like in real life, the desires of citizens and government are often thwarted by the law. These students seemed acutely aware of their limitations, which may be the first step in becoming an effective leader.
   For instance, one student council member expressed that she wanted school funds to go more toward extracurricular activities such as the Ecology Club. When told that funds were limited, she decided maybe it would be possible to approach large corporations in Elizabethton and ask for donations. "Just what major corporations in Elizabethton do you plan to talk to?" Bradley Brown asked.
   David Ornduff, Director of Planning and Development for the city, said he thought the "mock" government went well. "We have very, very bright young people in our community, and in our schools, and we are thankful for that. It's a good beginning, I think, in learning what government is all about and how it is conducted and the effect that it has on people's lives," he said.
   Whitman Brown said he's learned a lot from the experience. He said he thinks of himself as a natural leader and that Elizabethton High School needs more student leadership. "We really need to keep the administration thinking that this is a high school for the students. I am sort of the mayor's counterpart in student government, so it was interesting for me to see how the two roles coincide," he said.
   Stahl said he felt the students did a great job and that they discussed some issues very real to the city of Elizabethton. "They were talking real issues. Whether or not those issues are going to be on the agenda at a typical city council meeting at various times, depends. But some of those issues are. Definitely, the sales tax referendum has been on the council agenda before, and it's been before the voters."
   The students didn't let themselves get too serious, though. When considering the addition of a city bowling alley, student mayor Whitman Brown decided the city should hold a special workshop, consisting of eating pizza and bowling, of course.