Indian Trails Middle School eighth-grader Shelby Anton served as honorary “Mayor for the Day” at the Palm Coast City Council meeting on Oct. 7. Shelby joined Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts at the dais–sitting between Netts and council member Bill lewis–and assisted with several mayoral duties at the meeting – including awarding certificates to the graduates of the 32nd Palm Coast Citizens Academy.
Shelby received the honor after winning a statewide “If I Were Elected Mayor” essay contest sponsored by the Florida League of Cities and the Florida League of Mayors. She has also toured City Offices this fall and plans to participate in other City functions this year.
When Netts announced to the council and the audience that Shelby had won out of entrants from the entire state, she got a loud round of applause and council member Bill McGuire stood up for her.
“I need to share with you a conversation that we had when she first came in this evening and took the seat,” Netts said. “She has her gavel. I have my gavel. I said my gavel is bigger. But she said, ‘My name plaque is significantly bigger.'” (Shelby’s name was inscribed and framed in blue on a plaque big enough for a street sign.) She didn’t get the full experience of a council member though: no one from the audience gave her a hard time. Not even Dennis McDonald, the city’s heckler-in-chief.
Shelby was then to read her essay to the council. “She’s feeling a little nervous,” Cindi Lane, the city’s chief spokesperson, told council members as Shelby stood by her, a full house behind her, “so I’m going to read it for her.” (The full essay is below.) Almost as impressive as her winning the essay was her performance as mayor during the meeting: while most of the audience filed out after proclamations.
Shelby stayed to the end, at her mayoral seat, a full 75 minutes of enduring a government meeting, including an update on the latest of many unnerving developments involving Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks. “Obviously we are all wondering what’s happening in that office,” City Manager Jim Landon told the council by way of an update at the end of the meeting, referring to the ongoing state investigation of the supervisor. But the city has no plans–and no capabilities, Landon said–to run its own election. If it is someone other than Weeks, “it will be up to the governor to make that decision,” Landon said. “I’d be lying if I told you we weren’t concerned, as I think a lot of people are because of the situation.”
Mayor Anton, do you have anything you’d like to add?” Netts asked his understudy.
Shelby shook her head No.
“We need more of her,” McGuire said.
“This was a wonderful way to build a foundation of civic education and awareness in our leaders of tomorrow,” Pensacola City Councilman P.C. Wu said, referring to the contest. Wu is president of the Florida League of Cities. “We are so impressed by the true dedication to their cities these winners have displayed so early in their lives.”
Participants were required to submit a single-page essay, no longer than 250 words, that began with the statement If I were elected Mayor. The league of cities received some 1,500 submissions, making Shelby’s distinction particularly significant. Second Place went to Isaiah Thermilus of Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition in Port St. Lucie. Third Place went to Julie Derienzo of Ormond Beach Middle School.
Shelby is the daughter of James and Ame Everett Anton of Palm Coast.
If I Were Mayor
By Shelby Anton
If I were elected mayor, I would make my town a better place to live by focusing on tourism and increasing jobs. I will present some of my ideas on how I would achieve these goals.
First, I will meet with my city council to agree on a new budget that includes money to promote tourism. We will advertise our town’s positive attributes. This will attract more tourists and further increase tax revenue. There are many historic and natural attractions in Flagler County, where I live. I would advertise these attractions by marketing them on a social network, a site that is popular with many people. Palm Coast will also organize a Make Our Town Beautiful Day to encourage citizens to plant trees, flowers, and clean up litter. We might also hold an annual Flower Festival to raise funds for renovations to the town.
My second objective is to boost employment. My efforts to increase tourism will contribute to this goal. The other reason I will increase jobs is to reduce foreclosed properties, which make the town less attractive to tourists. I will propose to the city council to impose fines on banks if they neglect the foreclosed homes in our town.
Mayors cannot solve all of the town’s problems by themselves. There are so many things I could think of to do if I were mayor. Above all, I believe that the key to making a better place is to make sure the citizens feel safe.