Leaders In Training

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CONWAY—It was a figurative passing of the gavel as town leaders here offered advice to another government entity.

Recently, the Tiger Town Council from Willis Hare Elementary School in Pendleton got to rub elbows with real town officials.

The Tiger Town Council (similar to a student council) made a trip to the Conway Town Hall to learn how a municipal government operates.

During a tour of the Town Hall, Tiger Council Mayor Sterling Vaughan, Vice Mayor Matthew Wheeler, Treasurer Jontavious Bowers and Chair of Special Events Jordan Harrell, met with Conway Police Chief Billy Wayne Duke, Town Administrator Nancy Jenkins and Mayor Brian Bolton.

Each of the Tiger Council’s members was elected by their fellow students after a campaign period, where each member courted their constituents with their ideas for the school. They also passed out necessary political material like candy and buttons to get their fellow students’ vote.

Among the items the Tiger Council has accomplished is the establishment of Pawmart, where students can purchase school supplies. The council is also working on getting a school flag, one of the ways to boost school spirit.

The group is also gearing up for their Inaugural Ball and speaking at the Conway Veterans’ Park dedication, both of which will take place this month.

According to teacher Gwen Walton, who serves as the Tiger Council’s sponsor/ CEO, the council is comprised of all fifth graders and was organized last year to encourage Tiger pride.

“We’re trying to instill school spirit,” said Walton about the reason for having a Tiger Council at the school.

Willis Hare Principal Barbara Stephenson said the four young men are focused strongly on teamwork; a characteristic she hopes will reverberate throughout the school.

“They work well together, they discuss issues and say it in a manner that you want to listen,” said Stephenson. “They’re very polished.”

She believes each of the young men have a future in politics, and perhaps, will be that group of politicians longed for by citizens.

Stephenson said she wanted the students to venture out to the neighboring municipality in order to meet a real community leader.

After touring the police department and town administrator’s office, the group relaxed for a bit in the Town Council room. The four students took a seat where Conway town business is conducted (the commissioners board) and chatted with Mayor Bolton.

Upon the conversation turning to the students’ anticipated participation in the Veterans’ Park dedication, the Tiger Council admitted they were a little nervous.

Bolton confessed he gets a little anxious before each Town Council meeting, but he calms down once the meeting begins.

“If you ever get to the point where you’re not nervous it will be a shock,” he said. “But if you put your mind to it you can do anything.”

At the end of their discussion, Bolton presented Tiger Mayor Vaughan with a gavel bearing the council’s name.

“It’s a privilege to be selected to go and see the mayor,” said Vaughan in an interview with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald after his meeting with Mayor Bolton.

Vaughan said he was happy to serve on the Tiger Council as he gets to work with his good friends, which he said helps in the decision making.

Vaughan said his favorite part of the tour was learning about the Veterans’ Park.

Bolton said he hopes the experience will interest the students in small town politics.

After the tour, the Tiger Council, along with town officials, ate lunch at the nearby Main Street Diner.