This article appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
For years, the phrase: “Remember, Mayors’ Day isn’t just for mayors and it isn’t just for one day!” has accompanied Mayors’ Day Conference announcements—and that rang especially true this year as GMA hosted the biggest group of youth delegates in Atlanta. From Sunday, Jan. 22, to Monday, Jan. 23, more than 30 students from the cities of Decatur, Dublin, Fayetteville, LaGrange, McDonough, Macon -Bibb County and Sugar Hill attended orientations, policy meetings and the Legislative Networking Breakfast, while networking and gaining a greater knowledge of local government.
“When you’re young it’s easy to be cynical of the adults who represent you, but Mayors’ Day gave me a glimpse into all of the people who genuinely care about their communities,” said Spencer Williams, member of the Sugar Hill Youth Council.
GMA’s Board of Directors join Dublin Youth Council Representatives.
Youth arrived in Atlanta on Sunday morning. Before being introduced to policy committee meetings and other Mayors’ Day happenings, GMA’s Janice Edison, who serves as the liaison between GMA and the cities, led the students in an orientation with a brief overview of GMA, the conference, what they could expect and an opportunity for them to meet each other.
After orientation, the youth delegates attended the six policy committee meetings where they engaged in discussions and asked panelists, city officials and legislators questions on a number of issues including blight, transportation and community development.
According to Sugar Hill Councilmember Mike Sullivan, time spent at Mayors’ Day has provided students a learning experience they cannot receive outside of the classroom, along with important life skills.
In the delegate’s final session they heard from city and state leaders: Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and Representative Dexter Sharper on the importance of civic involvement at a young age and how to build and maintain relationships. The delegates also took a look into the speakers’ journey to leaderships.
“During the last youth session we were given a piece of important advice: to succeed in whatever field we choose, we must have relentless optimism. That’s what drives the people we had a chance to see speak, and that’s a piece of advice I hope to carry forward,” Williams said.
In its third year, the program also offers students the opportunity to network and enjoy an entertaining outing. This year, they enjoyed an evening at Top Golf for dinner and games.
“I underestimated the camaraderie that would form between myself, my own council mates, and all of the other youth delegates that attended,” Williams said. “It was more than refreshing to meet so many others who were open and willing to discuss the exciting and ‘boring’ parts of local politics.”