Children get guided tour of city hall

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comAugust 15, 2013 

Students from Westside Union Elementary school ended their summer vacation touring City Hall Monday in an effort to gain more knowledge of city government and how it works.

Five kids dressed in buttoned up shirts and ties, ages 3 to 11, joined City Manager Steve Carrigan to see the ins and the outs of City Hall including council chambers, city officials' offices and even the community development department.

Community member Ray Walton, the man behind the idea of the tour, said he wanted to get children focused on their future and help guide them in the right direction.

"It's important for kids to have some direction at a young age," he said. "So they can have other things to look up to."

First stop was at council chambers where Carrigan showed the students where discussions and decisions are made about the city. City Council meetings take place twice a month where various issues are discussed including those concerning police, fire and roads, Carrigan said.

Carrigan also showed students the utility billing department and explained the importance of paying bills on time.

Other offices inside City Hall are designated for the budget supervisor, city clerk, mayor and of course an office for Carrigan himself.

"This is where I'll meet with the department heads like the police chief and the fire chief or if a business wants to locate here," he said.

Stacy Elms, who works in the community development department explained where planning the construction for the city takes place.

"We have a building inspector here and at the end of the project he will go out, take a look at the construction, he'll sign off on it, and then he stamps it," Carrigan explained. "And then the people can move in, or the business can move in."

Not only does city hall hold council meetings, but all the administration work for the city is done there, including issuing permits for new construction, business licenses, writing checks and creating a budget for the city.

"I think it's fantastic when they come down to city hall," said Carrigan. "Some of the most fun out of our day is when the young kids come down."

Carrigan said they see school classes on a regular basis as well as community groups touring City Hall.

"A lot of them don't know what city hall is or what we do," he said. "If nothing else they'll remember sitting in the mayor's chair."

Tahj Burch, 11, said the tour helped him learn exactly what city hall is used for and now has a better understanding of the positions.

"I want to be a scientist, if I didn't want to be that, I wanted to be an author, and if I didn't want to do that I wanted to be an insurance agent — other than that, this place, I want to be a part of the council chambers," Burch said. "It makes me want to work here when I grow up."

Burch has been on other tours around the city and also believes it's important for young people to know how businesses function.

"To see how the city government works, how the police department works, how the fire department works, that's really important to me," said Walton.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209)388-6562 or at mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com.

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