Emerson Weitzel sat at a desk Tuesday morning surrounded by her colleagues and faced with a tough $100,000 decision difficult for any mayor — especially when you’re only 10 and your fellow commissioners are all fifth-graders.
The City of Gainesville invited 14 fifth-grade students from Alachua County Public Schools to participate in Florida City Government week by touring city facilities and meeting city employees. The October recipients of the citizen of the month awards at their respective schools took part in a mock city commission meeting with City Commissioner Harvey Budd, met City Manager Anthony Lyons, watched a police dog demonstration and shot a commercial for the city broadcast channel, said Bob Woods, a city spokesperson.
“This program in particular is really about educating our young folks who one day will grow up to possibly become members of city government either as professional public servants or as elected officials,” Woods said. “Each year it really is a joy to see the light bulbs turn on as kids are exposed to this wonderful opportunity.”
The 12-year-old city program is meant to inform children about the role local government plays in its citizens’ lives, he said.
Todd McLane, 10, enjoyed the police dog demonstration and didn’t expect commission meetings to be so long.
“I thought all they do was sit there, and they’d be like, ‘Do you wanna do this?’ and then they’d just say it, and then it would be done,” he said. “It would take like 30 minutes — not 12 hours.”