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Students take part in Massena’s Elks student government day

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MASSENA - Eighth-grade students from J.W. Leary Junior High School learned what it was like to be involved with local government Thursday, with students taking their turn as mayor, town supervisor, town justice, police chief and other local officials.

“It’s something the Massena Elks Lodge has always done as a way to give back to the community,” said Exaulted Ruler Jim Root. “I’ve been with the lodge for 13 years, and we’ve done this every year.”

Eighth-grade social studies teacher Dak Zaza said the program is something that’s been around for a lot longer than he has.

“It probably goes back at least 20 years,” he said noting that 20 students from the eighth-grade class are selected by the school to participate and take on various government roles for the day.

“I think the students get a couple of good things out of it,” he said. Number one, they get to see how their local government works and the second thing is they see those people are just members of the community like us who do their best to make the community successful and give back.”

Mr. Zaza said the idea of the program is to encourage students to one day become involved in the government, something that both Chase A. Cameron, who was mayor for the day, and Zach R. Witcomb, who was supervisor for the day, said was a possibility.

When asked if he would like to get involved in politics, Chase said maybe one day, “but not at the mayor level.”

Chase said he learned on Thursday that being mayor “is a very important job.”

If given the power to change any one thing, he said he would lower the age required to get a big game hunting license from 14 to 13.

“I might change the hunting age,” he said. “I would probably lower it a year.”

Zach said he learned what the supervisor does.

When asked if he would ever consider a run for public office, he replied with an answer that was spoken like a true politician, “Possibly, it’s on the table.”

If he had the power to change anything, he said he would like to see the police crack down on “weed and other drugs. It’s a huge problem in Massena,” he said.

Following the morning’s events, the students gathered at the Elks Lodge for lunch and presentations from several of the village’s and town’s leaders, as well as their teacher, Mr. Zaza.

“I would like to thank all the local officials for participating,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about local government and its role in the community.”

Mayor James F. Hidy said during his time with the students he reminded them that politics at the local level is different from politics at the state or federal level.

“We’re the ones that people come to complain to for whatever reason, unlike at the state or federal level where people can’t reach them,” he said. “It all happens right here, at the his level.”

Mr. Hidy then joked that Chase made an attempt to gain popularity with the village staff.

“He tried to give all the employees the rest of the day off, but I told him that wasn’t a good thing to do,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Gray said he spoke to the students about the importance of community service.

“I don’t know anyone who serves on the town council or village board who does it for the money,” he said. “We do it because we’re trying to help our community and make it a better place.”

Mr. Gray also joked about the difference between the town and village government.

“Unlike the village, we don’t get any complaints,” he said, laughing. “If you believe that, you’re pretty gullible.”

Town Justice James M. Crandall said it was nice to spend the day with a different kind of people than they often deal with in the court ystem.

“To see young people with their heads on straight and parents there to support them is great. We don’t see that every day in the courts, do we judge?” he said, motioning to fellow justice Gerald P. Sharlow.

“No we don’t,” he replied.

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