More input in civic affairs sought for city youth

VERGENNES — A Vergennes resident has asked city council members if they would consider ways to better involve the city’s young adults and students in civic affairs, and council members at their Feb. 14 meeting took seriously the suggestion.
Erin Roche — also the wife of Alderman Mark Koenig — said she had one short-term suggestion and also hoped the council would work to find longer-term solutions about how to create opportunities for younger citizens “to become more engaged in the political process and the work of the community.”
Roche’s immediate request was that council members set aside time before the March 6 annual city meeting to sit down with their area student council counterparts for an informal meeting. There, she said, students could ask questions and learn more about running the city.
That meeting could also boost attendance at Vergennes’ formal annual gathering, she said.
“They might be inclined to stay, and their families might be more inclined to stay, for town meeting,” Roche said.
Mayor Bill Benton said there is already an informal dessert-and-beverages gathering in the Vergennes Opera House before the 7:30 p.m. city meeting, and while he was not sure if time could be carved out for a separate sit-down, “It would be great to have them there if they were interested. We could be milling around and answering questions.”
Roche agreed to reach out to schools and gauge interest.
“I’m happy to look into it,” she said.
Concrete ideas on how to change the format of annual meetings to make them more youth-friendly were not uncovered at that Tuesday’s council meeting, but council members and Roche agreed they would brainstorm.
“Anything to engage them would be awesome,” Benton said.
City Manager Mel Hawley said schools and youth groups should know that he, City Clerk Joan Devine and even sewer treatment plant Chief Operator Rick Chaput have always been happy to offer tours and meet with youths to explain the city’s workings.
“We’re always busy, but we’ll always make time for kids,” Hawley said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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