Students ‘state’ their case in mock County Council session

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High school juniors Trevor Beachboard, left, of Sussex Central and Mason Sanders of Indian River examine material during the mock Sussex County Council meeting staged in conjunction with Boys/Girls State.

GEORGETOWN – A legion of high school juniors got a hands-on, crash-course in the workings of government last Thursday at Sussex County Girls/Boys State County Government Day.

In waves of eight – five County Council members, County Attorney, Finance Director and Clerk of the Council – students in a mock County Council session addressed a series of real-life issues the actual County Council is currently addressing or has acted upon.

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Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson addresses high school juniors participating in a mock County Council meeting on April 16.

Students engaged in discussion, asked pertinent questions and sought clarifying information from County staff – County Administrator Todd Lawson, Finance Director Gina Jennings, Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank, Director of Utility Planning John Ashman, EMS Director Bob Stuart and Director of Emergency Operations Joe Thomas – before putting voting action in motion.

As a mock County Council, students addressed:

  • a vendor/food truck ordinance;
  • a request for an additional $80,000 in the County’s dog control contract;
  • a conditional use request for poultry little conversion;
  • a Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan;
  • an EMS paramedic student program; and
  • a grant application for a generator for emergency shelter improvement.

Mr. Lawson, a participant in a similar county government event during his school days at Sussex Central, was thoroughly impressed.

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Madison Troyer of Sussex Tech and Bryce Molnar of Sussex Central were among the high school juniors that participated in County Government Day Thursday. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

“It’s always exciting to watch how they view the topics. Some of them are really current topics that we are addressing here at the council or very recent. Some of these issues like the one I covered with the vendor, they hadn’t seen anything and had no background before they saw my presentation,” said Mr. Lawson. “So for them to pick up on the pertinent issues and to really engage us with what I consider to be very impressive questions, it’s always exciting.”

“It’s enjoyable for a guy that went through the same process back in the 90’s, when I was in high school – I literally sat in this building and then went through the Boys State in Dover.” Mr. Lawson said. “I kind of feel like this was my way to give back to the folks that potentially could hold leadership positions in the future. These are our men and women of the future. This particular group, they are in this group because they like civics, they like government, they like leadership roles, they like being decision makers.”

County Council President Michael Vincent, R-Seaford, encouraged the young men and women to engage in public service.

“Public service I think is a great thing. As you go on through your life and you get older and get out of college or a trade school … it’s always good to participate in your local community and give back,” said Mr. Vincent. “I think that an obligation we all have is to give back to your local community; be a part of some kind of civic club or something you can help other people with.”

“I look at us as being public servants,” said Mr. Vincent. “We’re here to serve the public and what their needs are the best way that we can.”

Founded in 1935, American Legion Boys State is a participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government.

The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a similar program for young women – Girls State.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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