RACINE — Southern High School students received a lesson in local government on Thursday morning as the Meigs County Commissioners held their regular weekly meeting in the high school gymnasium with students in grades 9-12 in attendance.
”It all started with a student asking a question in my current world affairs class about the commissioners going to Washington D.C. and how local government can work with state government which in turn can work with the national government to get things done,” stated social studies teacher Jordan Pickens.
“After speaking with my colleague, David Maxson, the other high school social studies teacher, we decided to see about taking our students and going to a commissioner meeting. We realize we couldn’t get 60-plus kids in the tiny office of the commissioners, so we inquired to them if they would be interested in having the meeting at Southern High School,” added Pickens.
While the idea was for the current world affairs and government students to take part, it grew into a whole school idea.
“Once we got the ball rolling and ended up adding the entire student body of the 9th grade through the 12th grade instead of just our respective classes,” stated Pickens.
President of the Commissioners Mike Bartrum spoke briefly to the students before the meeting began, explaining that it is an “honor and a privilege” to be on the commission and serve the county.
While Bartrum acknowledged that everyone may not always agree, they, as a board, try to unite and come to a common resolution for the betterment of the county.
“It doesn’t matter if you are purple, maroon or green, we are all Meigs County,” said Bartrum.
Following the meeting the students and staff had the opportunity to ask questions.
Questions ranged from the importance of public involvement and attendance at meetings to the proposed correctional facility and the recent trip to Washington D.C.
Commissioner Randy Smith encouraged the students to attend public meetings and hold officials from school board, council and county offices all the way to the state and federal level accountable to those who elected them.
Using the example of the bills the commissioners approve for payment each week, Smith said, that members of the public have a right to ask who the bills are being paid to, for what and in what amount.
Regarding their trip to Washington D.C., Commissioner Tim Ihle explained that the trip allowed for the local officials to build relationships and connections with federal officials. Prior to the trip, the commissioners went through the same channels as anyone else would — going online to find a number and going through a customer service representative, or filling out an online form.
Now, they have the ability to directly contact necessary agencies at the federal level.
“It opened a door for us,” said Ihle.
The commissioners asked that members of the Southern High School Golf Team stand to be recognized as part of the meeting. The team was the 2017 TVC Hocking champions and have qualified for the district tournament.
While standing, a photo was taken to be included in the Commissioner’s Journal to commemorate the meeting. Taken from behind the commissioners looking out toward the gym, members off the golf team can be seen standing.
Before letting the team members return to their seats, Ihle asked if the students knew when the golf team at Southern began. Ihle explained that he did know, as it began in 1971 (his junior year) and he was a member of the first team.
Bartrum closed by thanking the students for their patience and being attentive during the meeting.
As for the experience of the day, Pickens stated, “I think it was great the students get to witness firsthand local government in action. We might not agree with the young minds of our future, but if we do listen to them, they really have some great ideas,”
“They (the students) are very interested in local government. Just this year alone I have had about 10 seniors register to vote. Additionally, I have maybe six who will be working the polls in a new program across the state getting the youth involved in election process called Democracy in Action,” explained Pickens.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.