This article appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet, resident and educator Susan Edwards and Police Chief Sarai Y’Hudah-Green recently facilitated a Kids’ Town Hall.
In Pine Lake, even 7-year-olds have a say in how city government works.
After speaking with Pine Lake resident and educator Susan Edwards, Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet thought it would be fun to have a town hall meeting designed for kids age seven and older.
“We polled the kids in the city and asked them if they wanted adults to be allowed to attend a Kids’ Town Hall and they said, ‘Are you kidding? No!’”
Hammet, Edwards and Police Chief Sarai Y’Hudah-Green facilitated the meeting.
“It was an hour long and really, really fun,” Hammet said. “We had about a dozen kids come. I am a song writer so I had to write a song for the kids. It’s called ‘Little Bitty City.’ We also had a big map of the city printed on vinyl and spread it out on the floor. We had the kids put stickers on places in the city, including where they live.”
The children also had the opportunity to ask the mayor and police chief questions. The mayor asked the children what improvements in the city they wanted to see.
“One kid asked if the speed limit could be lowered. Another said the seesaw in the park made a terrible noise and asked if something could be done about it,” Hammet said.
The day following the kids’ town hall, the city council met. The speed and seesaw noise issues were added to the agenda.
While the speed limit was not lowered, the council did discuss improving pedestrian safety, and Hammet said, “We talked to the public works director about the seesaw. He said it was a crisis he could manage and had it fixed.”
Following the council meeting, Hammet emailed the children’s parents to let them know how she and the city council addressed the children’s concerns.
“It was great because now those 12 kids say we can do things that make a difference,” Hammet said. “Also, they now know who their leaders are. It is not a scary remote thing. They have access.”
Hammet has developed the Kids’ Town Hall program so that it is easily sharable with other cities. A Town Hall for Tots is also in the works for children six and under.
“That one, the parents are going to have to come,” she said.