Julia Kennedy is continuing a trend for Richmond Hill Middle School students.
For the second year in a row, RHMS has produced the 12th District winner of the statewide "If I were Mayor…" essay contest, hosted by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA). While the official announcements will not be made until April 29 at an awards luncheon in Atlanta, Kennedy and RHMS were recently notified.
"I was very shocked, I didn’t expect it," Kennedy said.
What topics made Kennedy’s list of things to do if she were mayor?
"I talked about the Historical Society and giving them more money for funding, to upkeep the Henry Ford buildings in Richmond Hill," she said. "I also talked about making Richmond Hill a greener place and about growth in the city and how we have too much building in tight places."
Kennedy said she heard a lot about the Historical Society and growth from her grandmother and she knows the environment is a big issue.
RHMS science and social studies teacher Catherine Warren said all RHMS students had the opportunity to enter the contest, but she required her students to.
"Currently, students are learning about what a leader can and can’t do. They are also learning the importance of voting and how that’s part of being a good citizen," Warren said. "Julia was able to articulate what she felt is needed in Richmond Hill and provided solutions to those needs. She was concerned about preserving some of the historical buildings in the city, offering more recycling opportunities and slowing down growth."
Warren described Kennedy as a very well-rounded, involved student.
One of Warren’s 6th graders last year, Mallory McGee, won both District 12 and was the overall state winner in 2007 contest. Warren said the two-year wining streak is definitely setting a trend at RHMS.
Mayor Richard Davis said he’s happy to know another essay winner came from the city.
"These are important issues," Davis said. "I’m glad she won the contest."
Davis said the city has always tried to help the Historical Society in their efforts; when building, the city requires a minimum of 15 percent green space; and as far as growth, cities are generally structured with higher density – but he said Kennedy’s concern is a great thing.
Brooke Starr, spokesperson for GMA, said they received more than 4,700 essays from across Georgia for the 9th annual contest. She said things like homelessness and planting more trees are some of the big topics students often write about.
"But other essays are very thoughtful and really touch upon specific city issues that a mayor and city council might address," Starr said. "Those tend to be the winners."
During the April 29 luncheon, one of the 12 finalists will be chosen as the essay winner for Georgia.
As winner of her district, Kennedy will receive a $250 savings bond during the GMA awards luncheon. Richmond Hill City Council plans to recognize Kennedy at their May 6 meeting with other Georgia Cities Week awardees.
Kennedy’s parents are Angi and Steve of Richmond Hill.
Here's her essay, which will compete for state honors:
If I were Mayor I would address the issue of declining historical homes in my town. Our city has many homes founded by Henry Ford, and they are starting to show their age. We have a Historical Society, but they are a small group that doesn’t have a lot of funding. If I were Mayor I would have the city grant money to the Historical Society to help keep these houses and buildings around so future generations can enjoy them.
Next thing I would address as Mayor would be helping my city become "greener." I would provide more recycling opportunities, and provide horses to the local park rangers. This would look really nice for visitors and cut down pollution from the cars. I would also make the entrances to the city more welcoming by planting plants, flowers, and trees. The drinking water in our city has been a problem for years, I would continue to work to keep our water supply clean and safe.
Finally, If I were Mayor I would really focus on the issues of controlling growth in our city. My city is one of the fastest growing cities in the state. People move here because of its "small town" feel. Continuing to over build housing in congested areas and building in wetlands is taking away the beauty of our city. If we continue to build without a better plan, our city will no longer look nice and no one will want to live here anymore.
I know being Mayor is a hard job, but as long as I’m making decisions that are fair and are for the best interest of the community, I know I will be a good Mayor.