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Students to get up-close view of city council this month
Richmond Hill City logo

Just call it Local Government 101.

Academics are the main motivation behind Richmond Hill City Council’s decision – at the request of Mayor Russ Carpenter – to move its March meeting to 8 am. Friday at Richmond Hill High School. And there’s some tradition in there somewhere, too.

Though he wasn’t sure of exactly when, Carpenter, who has taught American government at RHHS for 22 years, said city councils more than a decade ago held meetings at the high school as part of Georgia Cities Week.

“It was before my time on council. They held them in the band room, and then it was discontinued for one reason or another,” said Carpenter, who was first elected to office in 2009 as a city councilman. “We wanted to bring it back.”

The idea is to fulfill a curriculum requirement while also exposing newly registered or soon-to-be registered voters to government.

“It lets them experience it in a very tangible way,” Carpenter said. “Students are going to be allowed to ask questions and some will be included in the meeting.”

But it’s also a way to emphasize the importance of local government, which often seems to take a back seat to national politics in the country’s collective consciousness.

“Everybody who knows anything about politics knows who the president is, and maybe their representatives in Congress and so forth,” he said. “But the every day stuff that affects their lives more than anything, they’re not as knowledgeable about.”

When it comes to nuts and bolts of the political process, Carpenter, a staunch Republican, has long ferried his students to vote regardless of their political leanings. He’s chaperoned field trips as far away as Washington, D.C., so RHHS students can see government in action.

This time, though, the teacher is bringing the field trip to the students. “What a better way to learn than to see it up close,” he said.

Maybe it’ll even kindle an interest in local government, Carpenter added, again noting many of the decisions made at the local government level impact residents daily, whether they know it or not.

“The decisions we make as local governments affect their everyday life,” Carpenter said, listing several.

“The road you came here on is a state or local road. When you go home and turn on your water, that’s a city service,” he said. “If you call police or fire, that’s a local government service. All the kids who grow up playing in rec league or going out to J.F. Gregory Park do so because of local government working to make lives better.”

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