Published on May 06, 2014
Coun. Ken Francis bestows the mayor’s chain of office on Grade 3 G. R. Saunders student Cameron Campbell during a tour of Stellarton town hall Tuesday. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
Published on May 06, 2014
Former educator and current town councillor Ken Francis talks about the history of Stellarton with students from G. R. Saunders. Francis hosts the tour of Stellarton town hall so young students in the town to get a feel of what municipal government is all about. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
STELLARTON – Councillor Ken Francis smiles as he describes the inner workings of Stellarton’s municipal government to Grade 3 students from G. R. Saunders Elementary School.
“Does anyone have any questions?” he asks just before a dozen hands go up.
“Does the mayor live here?” inquires one student.
“No he doesn’t but that’s where he sits, right over there,” Francis responds while pointing to Mayor Joe Gennoe’s chair in Stellarton’s council chambers.
Every year for the past four years, the former educator-turned-town councillor has hosted groups of elementary school students at Stellarton town hall.
“We want the young students in the town to get a feel of what municipal government is all about,” said Francis.
It’s not often that average citizens go out of their way to see council chambers. In fact, Francis said it’s likely some of the students’ parents haven’t seen the room where council meets.
“Some come to pay taxes and that’s it. Then they’re out the door again.”
He hopes that by engaging people in municipal government at a young age, they will become active citizens throughout their school days and beyond. While the tour begins with council chambers, the students get to meet the people who keep the town’s day-to-day business going. Stops at the town engineer, police and recreation office are top priority.
Student Jorji Chaisson asks for clarification on what the cylindrical tower with the name ‘Stellarton’ is.
“My brother told me it is an alien spaceship,” she adds with caution.
“That’s a good guess, but it’s the town’s water tower,” says interim town engineer Bob Funke.
Francis helps to guide students’ misconceptions and beliefs about municipal government in the right direction during a group discussion.
“What do you think the town takes care of here in Stellarton?” he poses.
A few hands go up and the first answer reveals the priorities of an elementary school student.
Francis nods as other answers such as roads, sidewalks and water are noted.
It’s a special year for Stellarton as the town will celebrate 125 years since its incorporation on Oct. 22, 1889.
The students were surprised to learn that the original name for the area was Albion Mines, the name given by the General Mining Association to their collieries by 1827. At a public meeting held on Feb. 1, 1870, the place was renamed Stellarton after a high-oil-content coal called Stella Coal which was found in particular abundance.
Francis pointed out some of the portraits of former mayors on the wall of council chambers. Among them was none other than G. R. Saunders, after whom the school is named.
Cameron Campbell and Jorji Chaisson got to try on the mayor’s chain of office, a symbol of the mayor’s authority.
“From an education standpoint, it’s important to have hands-on opportunities to experience town hall. I think it’s a memorable experience.”