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Taylorsville Journal

Elected officials, youth council join Local Officials Day at the State Legislature

Feb 09, 2024 03:48PM ● By Carl Fauver

Taylorsville was well represented at this year’s Local Officials Day at the State Legislature. Among the Capitol Hill visitors were: City Councilman Bob Knudsen (left, in red), Mayor Kristie Overson and Council Vice Chair Meredith Harker (left and right of Taylorsville House Representative Jim Dunnigan, middle back), 20 of this year’s 21 Taylorsville Youth Council members and (second from right) their adviser, Kris Heineman. (Courtesy Taylorsville City)

It was just the second day of this year’s Utah State Legislative session when hundreds of elected officials and high school students from across the state descended upon the Capitol for the annual Local Officials Day at the Legislature. Among them was Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson, four of five city council members, 20 of 21 Taylorsville Youth Council members and their adviser, Kris Heineman.

“All but one of our Youth Council members was able to attend; and they all seemed to have a good time visiting the Capitol and hearing Governor Cox during our lunch at the Salt Palace,” Heineman said. “Representative Dunnigan really went above and beyond this year, leading our students on a tour. They really got to see the ‘back side’ of the State Capitol. Our students also participated in a mock debate before lunch. I think they learned a lot.”

The busy day, Wednesday Jan. 17, began early. Taylorsville students arrived at their continental breakfast before 8 a.m., where they had the opportunity to meet and mingle with counterparts from other schools and parts of the state.

By 9:30, the Taylorsville group was on to its Rep. Jim Dunnigan-led tour. Overson also considered that a highlight.

“Oh my gosh, he was just so attentive to our students,” she said of Dunnigan. “The students got to go on the House and Senate floors. We took back hallways and behind the scenes stairways. It was really a VIP tour. Kudos to Kris for arranging it.”

This year’s group of 21 Taylorsville Youth Council members is the largest ever.

“We had 21 applicants last fall and they all met the requirements to be youth council members,” Heineman said. “It just didn’t seem fair to select most of them but leave a few off. Having a larger group has not been a problem because these are all responsible, top-notch students. We have several pairs of siblings in this year’s council. After older siblings join and enjoy it, they recommend it to their younger brothers and sisters.”

One of those sibling pairs is Mason and Miles Harker. They are the two younger boys among Taylorsville City Council Vice Chair Meredith Harker’s four sons.

“My two older boys weren’t on Youth Council – but this is Mason’s third year; he’s a senior and Miles is a freshman,” Harker said. “I love that Youth Council members provide service. The students are given a lot of opportunities to serve. It helps them see how one person can make a difference in their community. It gets them outside of themselves – out of their high school bubble.”

In addition to Mason and Miles Harker, another pair of Taylorsville Youth Council siblings are Kenzie and Hudson Hathaway. Kenzie serves the council as its public information officer. She is also the only youth ambassador from the group, meaning she draws public duties attending Taylorsville business ribbon cuttings and other official events.

“We had only five returning seniors this year and only three of us were eligible to be youth ambassadors,” Kenzie Hathaway said. “The other two said they were too busy to do it. I thought, ‘I’m a busy person also – but I am not going to shy away from another experience.’ I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve attended three ribbon cuttings so far and expect a few more this spring.”

As youth ambassador, Kenzie is also eligible to earn a $750 college scholarship if she completes a community service project and reports to the Taylorsville City Council about it.

“I’m working with the Taylorsville Police Department to put together an event that now has the working title of ‘Autism Awareness Carnival,’” Hathaway explained. “We are still working on the details. Essentially, I want the 1-day event to include informational booths and workshops to help the public – and police officers themselves – to communicate more effectively with autistic kids.”

Hathaway said the “Autism Awareness Carnival” is likely to be a featured activity at one of this summer’s Starry Nights @ the Plaza events outside city hall.

The next major event for Taylorsville Youth Council members comes next month. On March 14-16 they will participate in the group’s annual leadership conference, spending a couple of nights at Utah State University in Logan. λ

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