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Lessons on government

By Randy Garrison

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from Crestline Elementary third-grade teacher Nona Livingston. The third-grade classes were studying the different levels of government – federal, state and local government – and Ms. Livingston asked if I could possibly make come and speak to the third-grade classes at Crestline about how local government functions and also how local government affects their lives.

We agreed on a date, and Sept. 23 I went to share with the third grade how our local government here in Hartselle works. 

Whenever I speak with any group, I tend to ask for interaction; instead of me doing all the talking, I prefer somewhat of a back-and-forth with the group. 

Before making a point, I might ask how many know what this means or if they are familiar with the information I am about to share. 

This group of third-graders did a great job of interacting with answers to my questions and offering insight into what I was speaking about.

I shared information about how our local government is made up of a city council and a mayor as the form of local government. I included the duties of each and how they work together to accomplish goals and tasks for the city. 

I also explained how we have a system of checks and balances, as in our budget process, where the mayor presents the budget to the city council and the council approves revenues and spending. 

I asked if any of the students could guess what our city budget was for a year and received answers from $10,000 to $2,000,000. They were a little surprised when I said almost $13,000,000. 

When we discussed what the money was spent on, most could not believe a new fire truck could cost $560,000.

While discussing funds, I mentioned how important it is to support our city businesses, since the sales tax is the chief source of funding for our city. I believe they understood this, and I asked them to remind their parents how important is to buy locally. 

I also shared with the students about how their lives are impacted directly by local government. I shared that their lives are touched more closely by local government than state or federal. Each service the City of Hartselle offers has a direct impact on their lives each day, from police and fire protection to garbage pickup, street repair and, a couple that really got their attention, ball fields and the swimming pool. 

I also shared that government is very accessible to the public we serve. I explained how easy it is to ask questions and inquire about any issue a citizen of Hartselle might have. They can easily call the city department that handles their question, or they are always welcome to call me or stop by my office, and they can also come to any council meeting.

This was a great group of kids, and they had lots of interesting questions afterwards. 

Thanks to third-grade teachers Nona Livingston, Tawnya Guyse Brooks, Sharon Holyoak, Heather Rushen and Sophie Gillette for the invitation to speak and also for the terrific gift basket. Thanks to you all and all of our teachers in Hartselle who are dedicated to their profession and to the students they teach each day. You all are greatly appreciated. #wearehartselle #choosehartselle