Chatham’s NEW County Commissioners

Yep, you heard that right – we got new County Commissioners outside of the election cycle.

Ok, so maybe they weren’t exactly sworn in, but they did volunteer to serve and make decisions about the County’s future. Oh, and I should also mention that they are all under the age of 19 years old. Here they are…

picture of 6 latinx youth and two county commissioners sitting in the commissioner chairs in the historic court house
[Photo from Chatham News + Record] With an assist from actual Commissioners Jim Crawford (third from left) and Diana Hales (third from right, the “commissioners” were, from left to right, Noemi Mora, Oscar Manzanarez, Chair Kevin Manzanarez, Vice Chair Cesia Lopez and Berenice Diaz.
Let me explain…

The Orgullo Latinx Pride youth group of El Vinculo Hispano/The Hispanic Liaison and Lindsay Ray, the County Clerk, organized a mock Board of Commissioners meeting to show Latinx youth a little more about the role of County Commissioners. The youth got to serve in varying capacities throughout the activity such as commissioners, the clerk, and residents.

Picture of citizen at public input
[Photo from Chatham News + Record] “Citizen #2” Jocelyn Gonzalez shares her thoughts on why the board of commissioners should have a social media page during the public input session of the meeting.
It was truly a fun experience. The “newly elected” commissioners got to listen to public input about social media use to promote awareness of local government and help for a fundraiser. Then, they got to listen to public hearings about school uniforms and banning chewing gum in schools. They even got to discuss and vote on the hearings. Lastly, they were able to decide which projects to fund for the upcoming fiscal year. The votes were taken by using starburst candy. (I may or may not have eaten quite a few of the candies myself).

Picture of the voting vases with starbursts that show which projects got funded
[Photo from Chatham News + Record] The final votes on possible funding options, as picked by “commissioners.” A new costume and updated robot friend for Sparky the Fire Dog and an “Adopt-A-Pet Visiting Area” at the animal shelter won out.
After the activity, the County Manager’s staff and the commissioners stayed and chatted, answering questions and listening to the youth voice their concerns about their communities. Honestly, it was great to see local government being explored by Latinx youth. As a person of color, I know that building a level of comfort with local government spaces and having the social capital to access those spaces are often prerequisites for entering the local government sphere. I was so happy to be a part of building that foundation of comfort, understanding, and (maybe) trust. One thing I do know is that this won’t be the last time I see these Latinx youth doing great things!

By far, this was probably one of my favorite things since joining Chatham County! 

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