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Valley Focus | VENTURA

Mayor's Post Proves to Be Child's Play

January 07, 1998|HILARY E. MacGREGOR

If you had been channel surfing Monday night and ran across the City Council meeting around 7:15 p.m., you would have been struck by one thing: how incredibly youthful the mayor looked.

And indeed, for a split second, he was.

Sitting in the mayor's chair, gavel in hand, voice booming over the microphone, was Michael Allen, 10, a student at Saticoy Elementary School, reading his essay on honesty.

He is the first in Mayor Jim Friedman's new "mayor-for-a-moment" program, which evolved from an earlier partnership with the Ventura Unified School District.

For years the school district has had a character trait for the month. Each week the mayor would read that trait in council chambers during the first meeting of the month. But Friedman got to thinking.

"It occurred to me that it would be so much more meaningful if instead of the mayor reading the character trait, that we get the students involved," Friedman said. "After all, they are the ones it is directed toward."

So he brainstormed with his wife, who is a fifth-grade teacher at E.P. Foster Elementary School in west Ventura. They had an idea: have a contest in which students write an essay on the character trait. The winner would then have a chance to become "mayor-for-a-moment" and read his or her essay at City Hall. Afterward he or she could shake hands with all the council members.

"It will be a wonderful and memorable experience for a fifth-grader," Friedman said. "Something they will never forget."

Monday night, dressed in khaki pants and a khaki shirt, his hair slicked back for the occasion, Michael took his seat. With two sharp clacks of the gavel he called the meeting to order and read his essay.

His essay concluded: "It is very important for the mayor to be honest because he has to make all the right decisions for the city. . . . The other members on the council would not trust him if he were dishonest. The people of who vote for him would not vote for him again if he were dishonest. But he is very honest."

The contest will be held at a different school each month.

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