A future generation of voters questioned Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and city council members Thursday, on Government Day. The event was part of Georgia Cities Week which was held in cities across the state last week.
Hinesville Public Relations Manager Krystal Britton said most of the week’s activities focused on students and residents.
“Twelve students will have their pre-selected questions answered (verbally) by Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and the council,” Britton said. “All other questions will receive a written response.”
Britton said the city received 64 questions from students at Liberty County High School, Bradwell Institute and First Presbyterian Christian Academy and Youth Challenge Academy participants.
LCHS government teacher Chase Ogletree and four of his students, Felisha Burks, Shakur Cook, Chelsea Mells and Teiara Tyson, attended the meeting and posed their and other students’ questions to the council.
“Local government is so accessible,” Ogletree said. “It humanizes the (government) process.” Having students attend the meeting gave them an opportunity to see how their local elected officials interact with the public, he said.
Burks, a LCHS senior, said she liked seeing how city officials reacted to students’ questions and to citizens’ public comments. She added by attending the meeting she was able to view the mayor and council as regular people.
One student asked why the council was cutting city employees’ salaries and benefits. Thomas answered the city has not cut salaries or furloughed any city workers. But, because of the sluggish economy, city employees did not receive raises, he said.
Hinesville Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier was asked about the Liberty Transit bus system, how it came to be and if it is successful.
Frasier responded a survey was taken about four years ago to see if there was a need and desire for public transportation. The issue was raised during a county-wide planning workshop, he said. Later, the city applied for and received a federal grant to implement the bus system. Fraiser said the buses have a current ridership of 2,000, and the goal is 4,000.
“We’re working on it; to make those changes to get that (improved) ridership,” he said.
District 5 City Council Member Kenneth Shaw told one student “I love this job,” when asked why he serves. “I feel like I’m out there helping someone; giving them a voice.” Shaw added elected officials have to take “a lot of heat,” and can’t always please everyone with the decisions they must make.