The kids are (going to be) alright

Published 3:05 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Letter to the editor

After Mayor Nix reversed the policy entitling the Junior Mayor/President of the MJCC to a seat at the dais with the City Council, MJCC Junior Mayor Olivia Gilbert spoke to the council for the second time during the public forum.

When she got to the podium, she spoke of the impact the MJCC has had: being recognized and emulated around the state, being honored by the Shelby County Delegation to the Alabama State Senate, and, most importantly, by being inspirational to the youth of Montevallo.

There is real interest and participation in the MJCC in Montevallo’s schools, and this is important. No more can the people of Montevallo complain about the apathetic youth of today; the young people in Montevallo are thoughtful, active and, until Mayor Nix’s removal of the Junior Mayor from the council dais, fully engaged in the affairs of our town.

To be clear, these young citizens showed that they will continue to be engaged (there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle), but it will be a more alienating and difficult process than before. We owe them more—we owe them the respect that they have earned and deserve.

And what a genie the MJCC has been. They won the 2018 American Civic Collaboration Award.  They have spearheaded several community projects and seen them to completion. Since their formation they have compiled a list of accomplishments that puts most adults to shame:

hosting drive in movies, volunteering at the humane society, hosting shoe and toy drives, holding mayoral debates, volunteering at city events and festivals, creating discount cards for high school students to promote the city’s businesses, establishing more inclusive awards at Montevallo High School, purchasing solar power charging stations for Orr Park, and holding a birdhouse contest.

Members of the MJCC, students and members of the community all spoke in support of restoring the seat at the table to the elected mayor of the MJCC. The Junior City Council deserves the respect that they have earned.

Mayor Nix’s only explanation for his removal of the MJCC Junior Mayor from the dais was his claim that only elected officials have a seat at the main table. When this was shown to be inaccurate (the city clerk has always had a seat), the mayor amended his claim to say that only elected and appointed officials have a seat. Fortunately for Montevallo, the council keeps records, and some people consult them. Late in the meeting, former Council Member Jason Peterson read from the City Council’s current policies which clearly state that the MJCC Junior Mayor shall sit at the council dais during meetings:

Developed with tremendous support from the David Matthews Center for Civic Life, The Montevallo Junior Community Council (MJCC) is a group of middle and high school students dedicated to strengthening Montevallo’s youth by improving the arts, athletics and the overall curriculum of the Shelby County Schools through community outreach. They serve in an advisory capacity to the City Council. The Junior Mayor sits with the council at each council meeting as a testament to the city’s commitment to truly engage the youth and let their voice be heard.

Unless the Council moves to amend their current policies and makes the unpopular decision to remove the Junior Mayor from the dais, it seems clear Ms. Gilbert and all future Junior Mayors are being denied the seat they have earned and for which they have been chosen.


Michael F. Patton