In 2018, Montgomery County’s top leaders gave high school students a front-row seat to local government, bringing in the next generation to help set the community’s agenda.
The Mayor’s Youth Council read and took unofficial votes on ordinances and resolutions being debated in the city council and board of commissioners. But as the teens quickly discovered, much of the time in public meetings is spent on routine business including setting up funds for spending grant money to acknowledging department budgets.
“They’re looking at us like, ‘This is boring,’” Mayor Todd Barton said. “It’s a really good lesson in government for them, but it wasn’t really accomplishing our goal.”
Before the next group of teens is sworn in this fall, the youth council is being revamped to put the students more in charge of their own agenda. The group will begin convening hammer out potential solutions for youth-related issues before adult advisers come in to guide the regular meetings.
The youth council will take non-binding votes on issues where elected officials seek a younger perspective. One of those issues, Barton said, could have been the proposal to restrict the display of vaping accessories in retail stores, which has been tabled.
Members would present their recommendations to the city council.
The current youth council, whose members graduate from high school this spring, is interested in planning events at Pike Place and registering students to vote.
The members were recruited through call-outs at the schools. Students were interviewed by a committee made up of Barton, city planning and community development director Brandy Allen and representatives from the city council and board of commissioners.
Twelve students were selected for the council. Members include students in the Montgomery County Leadership Academy’s Ascent career exploration program. Four alternate members were also appointed.