Spanish Fort creating junior city council

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/6/22

SPANISH FORT — High school students in the Spanish Fort area will have a chance to get first-hand experience in local government under a plan being created by the city council.The council is …

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Spanish Fort creating junior city council

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SPANISH FORT — High school students in the Spanish Fort area will have a chance to get first-hand experience in local government under a plan being created by the city council.

The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday, July 5, to give final approval to a resolution creating a "Junior City Council." The group will be similar to junior councils created across the country, including in Daphne and Fairhope, according to the resolution.

David Conner, city attorney, said the student group will have seven members with the city council appointing six and the mayor appointing one. He said the group will meet with the mayor and city council on a regular basis, share ideas, attend council meetings, take part in work sessions and assist in Spanish Fort youth activities.

Most junior city councils also plan and conduct public projects with money allocated by the city councils. In Fairhope, the Junior City Council repaired and decorated the stairs to the North Beach bluffs as its first project.

Conner said the program will help young people learn how public agencies work, such as the process of limited government.

"They, just like you all, have limited powers," Conner said. "Just as you have the powers given you by the legislature, they have only the authority to exercise the power given them by you. So, they get to learn all about the limited power, limited rule government."

The council will consist of 10th, 11th and 12th-grade students who will serve a term of one academic year, according to the resolution.
Councilman Carl Gustafson suggested that freshmen also be eligible for membership.

"I do know from attending some of their meetings that they've got some pretty solid freshmen," Gustafson said. "I think those freshmen will benefit from seeing the upperclassmen kind of bring them along. Somebody that starts as a freshman, by the time they're a junior, they're ready for leadership at that point."

Other council members said they felt that membership should be limited to older students.

The students will not have to attend Spanish Fort High School but can also be enrolled in private schools or be home schooled, Conner said.

Gustafson said Spanish Fort High School staffers, including Principal Shannon Smith, are enthusiastic about the program.

"Doctor Smith is all on board with this," Gustafson said. "She is very excited about this. I know they're not going to be all Spanish Fort High School I do know some school students that are going to school in Fairhope who are going to be applying for this as well."

The original resolution introduced Monday, June 20, stated that the six junior council members appointed by the city council must live in the Spanish Fort city limits.

Councilwoman Mary Brabner said that requirement would make most Spanish Fort High School students ineligible since more than 60% of the enrollment live outside the corporate limits.

"If we narrow it to residents of the city and there's only 35 or 40% of the city represented at the high school, we don't have anybody to put on this board," Brabner said. "We're narrowing it. I thought all along we were going to make it the feeder pattern of the high school."

Council members agreed to expand the eligibility to include the high school feeder pattern but said students in that area who attend private schools or are home schooled would also be eligible.

The junior council will meet at least once a month and will elect officers at the first meeting after students are appointed.

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