If I were mayor
For many adults, driving past old dilapidated buildings, avoiding deep pot holes and crossing the street because the sidewalk abruptly ends are just part of everyday life. It's the accepted norm that comes from decades of living in a community and seeing the wear and tear that municipalities are forced to deal with on a regular basis.
But for 10-year old Brianna Burgess, she asks why?
Why can't the building be restored? Why can't the pothole get fixed? Why aren't there sidewalks where people walk?
It's her inquisitive mind, one that is tuned to the everyday civics of living in the small town of Hubbard, that garnered statewide recognition after she won the "If I Were Mayor" contest for her age bracket toward the end of the 2018-19 school year.
"I was really surprised," Burgess said when she found out her entry to the contest was selected over every other fourth and fifth grade student in the state who applied. Partly because she knew going into the contest that no one from Hubbard had ever submitted an application to the annual contest put on by the Oregon Mayor's Association. But also because she had lost the first poster she had worked on and had to scramble at the last minute to build a replacement to submit to the contest in May.
"I knew I turned in mine late, so that would mean a less chance of winning," Burgess said. "I only took three days to make it. I had been working on it before, but I had lost the poster, so I had to restart the whole thing with new ideas."
But Burgess is no ordinary fourth grader. For the past two years, she has been in regular attendance at the monthly Hubbard City Council meetings. Living in a small town, Burgess is curious as to how the municipality works. She knows the local police and fire officials by name, refers to Mayor Charles Rostocil as "Mayor Charles" and has an innate inquisitiveness for how decisions get made that affect the city in which she lives.
"The first time I went there, they were starting the Saturday Market," Burgess said. "So that was really fun, so I kept on going, because I really liked to know what was going on around town."
It wasn't long after that Burgess had the idea to bring something up to the city council. She and her mom, Tanya Mathis, were returning from shopping when Mathis veered into the opposite lane while turning onto Mineral Springs Road from Boones Ferry Road to avoid a washed out section of the road.
"She said that's not safe," Mathis said. "She said, 'I'm going to bring that up to the city council meeting.'"
At the next scheduled meeting, Burgess brought up the road condition to the Rostocil, who consulted with the public works department. Unfortunately, the washed out section of the road was just outside city limits, but Rostocil made a phone call to the county and the following week, work crews were at the site of the washout, filling in the hole with gravel.
"They fixed the whole road," Burgess said.
"I said, I think you made that happen," Mathis replied. "Ever since then, she just likes to go, whether she brings anything up or not."
So when Burgess lost her original poster for the If I Were Mayor Contest, it wasn't that big of a deal, because she knew exactly what she wanted to do if she were given the gavel. She wanted to fix the sidewalks, either repairing those that have deteriorated or provide new ones where people frequently walk, but are forced to use roadways.
She also wants to turn some of the abandoned buildings in downtown Hubbard into good use, repurposing them for community-wide utilization.
"I also thought a youth center could be good. People could work on homework and afterschool classes, and stuff like that."
For her winning entry, Burgess, her mom, and her dad — Don Burgess — will travel to Medford on Aug. 3 where Burgess will present her ideas, along with middle school winner Ryleigh Phillips of North Powder and high school winner Madielynn Larman of Elgin. All three will be gifted an iPad Air 2 for their efforts, but that is just the cherry on top for Burgess, who is much more interested in seeing what else she can do to be involved in her community in the future.
"My mom always says if you want to make a big difference, start with your community," Burgess said.
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