Edina students ponder being mayor

Fifth-grader Sharey Ramesh wants to grow up to be a mayor and a class assignment gave him the chance to write his future victory speech.

“I appreciate being elected mayor,” he wrote.

He also assured the residents that he would spend his first day in office increasing employment, minimizing the destruction of animal habitats and keeping the city clean by promoting clean energy. The mayoral position would allow him to know what was going on in the city and to help the residents, he said.

So he was elated when he got the chance to see the actual mayor of Edina, Jim Hovland.

“It was really cool. I never thought I would meet someone like the mayor,” he said after Hovland visited his classroom at Countryside Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 21.

The visit to the fifth-grade classes was part of a State Farm grant Countryside fifth-grade teacher Michelle Shaw received to teach students about civic responsibility and connecting with the community in which they live.

The yearlong grant program was also tied in with Kids Vote Edina to educate students about government and the voting process.

They began with a visit from City Manager Scott Neal in the fall. That led into studying the mayor’s job and during the election season, students wrote essays on what they would do on their first day as mayor.

It was great to have Hovland visit the students because it gives them a chance to see someone who can make a difference in the community and see the person they go to when there’s a problem in the community, Shaw said.

The first-day-as-mayor activity was an opportunity for students to think about what they could do to impact the world they live in, she said.

Julie Rogers Bascom, the school district’s service learning coordinator, said the activity had students thinking about the issues they see in their city and what they could do to help.

“They have the ability and responsibility to make a change in their community,” she said of the lesson.

Some students shared their essays with Hovland during his visit to Countryside, expressing ideas for the city that included having good university options, good sidewalks, less expensive food options; increasing public safety; focusing on recycling and composting; encouraging education and offering medical help for everyone.

Students also spent 45 minutes quizzing Hovland on everything from why he wants to be mayor and whether he gets to meet celebrities to what he would do if he were president of the United States.

In response to a student wondering if being mayor was hard, Hovland replied, “Sometimes, when people are upset about things.”

When Hovland said his favorite sport is basketball, one student opined, “It’s too bad the mayor’s office doesn’t have a basketball court.”

Students were also wondering what it was like to run against mayoral candidate Linda Masica in the November election. Hovland described it as a “tough race” because he knew she would run a tough campaign. He said he felt pressure during the campaign, but he had a great campaign team.

Hovland also told students the most improved aspect since he became mayor is citizen participation and transparency in government. The city works hard to let people know what’s going on, he said.

Students also had a lesson in the different types of governance in a city – city government versus school district administration – when a student asked, “Why do you keep changing school lunches? They’re terrible now. I speak for the entire class.”