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'Government Day' in Dixon returns after taking year off

DIXON – Mayor Jim Burke had to apologize for speaking out of turn.

"Acting student mayor" Katie Lawton ran Monday’s City Council meeting, and 23 other eighth-grade government students shadowed city commissioners, department directors and media, as they took part in the city’s annual "Government Day."

The event, which gives students from Reagan, St. Mary and St. Anne an active role in the council meeting, speaking the motions and calling roll for the council’s vote, was put on hold last year during the Rita Crundwell scandal.

Students Lawton, Jayda Haime, Anton Halla, Zach Demko and Darius McGlown played commissioner roles, ran campaigns and were elected by their own student bodies. Those students then appointed department directors within the city.

Lawton, who ran Monday’s meeting, was twice interrupted by Burke, who is used to running the meetings.

“Sorry,” Burke said to laughter from the larger-than-usual crowd, consisting of parents and students.

Students spent 2 hours in the afternoon shadowing the official in their positions, then returned to the City Council to play their roles.

Chris Bishop said the hands-on activity is something that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.

“I’m glad it’s back,” Bishop said. “The students look forward to this, and they learn a lot from the experience.”

Commissioner Jeff Kuhn, who started “Government Day” in 1995 as a teacher in Dixon schools, said the activities are designed to give students an appreciation for the day-to-day operations in their city government. More than 240 students have participated in “Government Day” since its inception.

“Who knows? The experience of these students today could lead to a future career in government,” Kuhn said. “Two of our past [student] mayors have gone on to be lawyers.”

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