Column: Delta Force students participate in Government Day

ESCANABA — Students learned firsthand what it takes to serve on a city commission during the latest Delta Force session — Government Day. Students heard from local city and county government leaders and took part in a mock city commission meeting. To start off Government Day, held at the Delta County Commerce Center, students enjoyed breakfast provided by Walmart of Escanaba.

Chamber of Commerce Associate Director Sheila Krueger provided a brief overview of ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’, describing the essential rules of procedure in running meetings smoothly and fairly. Delta Force student and Bay College IT Administrator Seth Seastrum found the lesson valuable, saying, “Sheila did a really great job of explaining ‘Robert’s Rules of Order.'”

Students then took part in running a mock city commission meeting, facilitated by Krueger and local business owner Craig Lauerman, who served on the Gladstone City Commission for approximately six years. The meeting focused on the budgeting process for a make-believe city, aptly named Delta Force. Students played the role of city commission members, mayor, city department heads, and concerned citizens.

The citizens stepped to the podium to speak to “commission members” and their “mayor” to try to convince them to save the library and public safety budgets from being under-funded, and the city’s recreation budget, (including the water park), from being cut.

Students even heard from a potential “business developer” who was looking for tax abatement for a new biodegradable diaper manufacturing facility. Students learned valuable lessons in the budgeting process, realizing that sometimes budget cuts impact someone’s livelihood, but are necessary to keep budgets balanced.

Students enjoyed the commission meeting, and found it to be a worthwhile lesson.

“I enjoyed the Delta Force mock city commission meeting exercise,” Seastrum said. “It required us to be innovative and inventive. When we got into the meeting, we understood it better. I came in thinking in one direction, and then, the rules changed. It definitely kept me on my toes,” he said, adding: “It was fun for me.”

After enjoying lunch provided by Walmart, students learned about the legislative process from Mandy Tomich of Dodak & Associates in Lansing, and listened to presentations by Gladstone Mayor Pro-tem and owner of Dobber’s Pasties Brad Mantela, Escanaba Mayor Mark Ammel, and Delta County Administrator Ashleigh Young. These municipal leaders gave students an overview of city/county government and stressed that good citizenship starts with interest and getting involved in the process. Mantela discussed Gladstone’s budgeting process and millages.

Director of the Delta Area Transit Authority (DATA) John Stapleton also discussed his position and how he advocates on behalf of DATA with the State of Michigan. He told students about the challenges of the budget process, which involves inevitable budget cuts. He also discussed the current challenges in hiring skilled labor.

Amy Berglund, InvestUP’s director of business initiatives, also spoke about her position, along with the Delta County Economic Development Alliance and its value to Delta County businesses. She discussed how businesses study employment data and census information before deciding to open a new business in a city, and how attracting these new businesses can be a challenge.

All the panel members stressed to students the importance of being involved in their city, township, or county government, whether in a paid position or in a volunteer capacity.

“If you have the opportunity, get involved in your community,” Mantela stressed. “Your input, somehow, will help your city move forward.”

Ammel agreed, stressing that the students should become active in their local community, adding that we all have something to offer our community, no matter our backgrounds, and to not be afraid to bring our expertise to a board. We simply need to find where our expertise is best suited to help our community.

Created and facilitated by the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, Delta Force encompasses a series of ten full-day sessions covering such areas as media and communications, education, leadership, health and community services, law and order, government, and other key segments of our community. Next month, Delta Force students will tour OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group on Health and Human Services Day. Visit deltami.org/delta-force-leadership-program for more information.

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Victoria LaFave is with the Delta County Chamber of Commerce


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