New student rep appointed to city council
Quincy High School senior Carlos Guadarrama had never attended a city council meeting before last year.
“Never knew we had them,” he said of the twice-a-month meetings.
Guadarrama is getting a firsthand and personal experience in local politics as the newly appointed student representative to the Quincy City Council.
As a junior, Guadarrama served as the alternate to the city council. He took over as the lead student representative in June.
The 16-year-old is the fourth student representative appointed to the liaison position. (Jazmine Benitez, a junior, is the alternate now and will be the fifth student representative next year.) Mayor Jim Hemberry established the nonvoting, advisory position after listening to other cities that have similar student representatives on their councils.
The students can offer a different perspective to the city council when the city is talking about such issues as the construction of a new recreation center or another topic, Hemberry said. The position is meant to bridge a gap between the city council and its younger constituents.
Hemberry typically sits down with each of the students and explains their roles on the council. He goes over what an agenda is and how the meetings are run. For most students, it’s all new information for them.
“They don’t teach civics in school anymore,” Hemberry said.
In the past, student representatives have used the position to update the council on what’s going on at the high school. However, Hemberry would like to see Guadarrama offer his opinion or perspective on city issues.
“I really would like the student representative to engage when we are talking about things,” the mayor said.
And that’s a role that Guadarrama welcomes. The oldest son of Yolanda and Greg Guadarrama of Quincy, the QHS senior described himself as “friendly” and “open.”
Guadarrama, who is also a Running State student at Big Bend Community College, said the first city council meeting he attended was a little intimidating. In the room were people like the Quincy mayor and police chief.
“I could tell it was pretty serious stuff,” he said.
A political science course he took last fall at BBCC put much of what the city council does in focus for him. “I was connecting a whole bunch of dots,” said Guadarrama, who also now serves on the city’s recreation committee.
Serving as the alternative this past year, Guadarrama was able to listen to city staff talk about upcoming projects before they got to work on them. Not many of his peers know that the city is debating whether to put a roundabout or a traffic light at 13th Avenue, for example.
“I get to see changes before they happen,” he said.
Former student representative Kaitlin Ramsey encouraged Guadarrama to get involved and share his ideas with the council, he said, and that’s something he plans on doing. For example, when people come to the city council, asking it to sponsor events or projects, he would like to ask more questions, he said.
Guadarrama encourages his younger peers to consider applying for the alternate position, which is chosen by the high school, in the coming school year. It’s been fun to play a role in how the city government operates, he said.
But it’s also a commitment he doesn’t take lightly.
“You have to go big or just not even do it,” he said.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org