Kiwanis Club gives kids first-hand look at local government
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — Pinkston Middle School students received firsthand experience in local government this week, shadowing elected officials as part of the Student Government Day sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Mountain Home.
About 80 sixth-grade students ran campaigns at Pinkston earlier this year to be elected to one of 16 city, county and judicial offices. In April, students being elected to a particular office got to spend part with their adult counterparts to learn about how that office functions.
Students, elected officials and Kiwanis members then gathered on a recent afternoon for a luncheon at Integrity First Bank where the elected students gave brief reports on their experiences as elected-officials-for-a-day.
“I never realized how much work people do to sustain a wonderful county like ours,” Hannah Baker, who shadowed County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, told the Baxter Bulletin.
Gavin Hancock, who shadowed Mountain Home Treasurer Rita Murray, said he did not know the City of Mountain Home operated on a $33 million budget until recently.
“I also got to sit in the mayor’s chair. That was pretty cool, too,” he said, drawing a round of laughs from the audience.
Stone Ramsey recently spent part of the day with his aunt, Baxter County Tax Collector Teresa Smith.
“The Collector’s Office is the one office that lives in the past,” he said. “Everyone who comes in, they are paying on their 2017 taxes.”
Karson Willie spent the morning with Jayme Nicholson, learning how the Baxter County Assessor’s Office operates. During her time in the office, Willie got to assess her dream car: A Nissan Maxima.
Taya Foster, who shadowed Fire Chief Ken Williams, toured the fire department and meeting the firefighters as acting fire chief.
“Almost all of them asked me for a raise,” she said, drawing another round of laughs.
The Mountain Home Kiwanis have hosted Student Government Day for over 40 years. This year’s event was split up across three days because some officials were out of the office.
“It’s so much fun to have them come in,” Baxter County Clerk Canda Reese said. “It requires us to think about the things we do every day and present them in a way the kids can relate to them.”
Mountain Home Clerk Brian Plumlee said that some Student Government candidates run for office because they have a genuine interest in the position, while others may just be looking to get out of school on a field trip.
“Maybe for some of us elected officials, it’s our ‘get out of school’ trip, too. It’s fun to get out and show them around,” he said. “I spend most of my time here (at City Hall), so when we go on tours of the fire department or the police department, we get to see what’s new there.”
Jackson Criner spent the day with Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery. While with the sheriff, the sixth-grader learned to shoot a Glock handgun, he said. The day also included a jaunt in the sheriff’s helicopter, whose age struck the Pinkston student.
“I also got to ride in a 49-year-old helicopter,” Criner said, drawing a third round of laughs.
Students elected to shadow City of Mountain Home officials included Rylee Crecelius as mayor; Hadleigh Baker as city clerk; Naomi Wiggins as police chief; Taya Foster as fire chief; Gavin Hancock as city treasurer; Talon Palmer as city attorney and Carly Pittman as juvenile probation administrator.
Sixth-graders elected to shadow county officials included Hannah Baker as county judge; Jackson Criner as county sheriff; Ivy Murray as county clerk; Karson Willie as county assessor; Stone Ramsey as county collector; Ella Hilvert as county treasurer and Quinn Reynolds as prosecuting attorney.
Pinkston students elected to shadow judicial officials included Laykin Moore as district court judge and Whitten Coleman as juvenile judge.
Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com