In the village of Risingsun, there are two mayors and two city councils. Mayor Rick Whetsel works for the streets department; Mayor Paige Curlis enjoys bowling and Zumba. Whetsel has been mayor since 2001 and Curlis has been mayor since April, 2015. Whetsel drives to meetings and Curlis asks her mom, Alice Connor, for a ride because Paige Curlis is a 13-year-old student at Lakota Middle School.
Paige and several other young people in the Wood County village decided to form the Risingsun Kids Council because, “Bradner and Wayne have stuff to do and we didn’t have anything,” said Recording Secretary and sister of the mayor, Taylor Curlis. The Curlis sisters and six of their friends comprise the Kids Council.
The idea came when Paige and Tayor joined their mother at a regular meeting of the adult council. The girls, neighbors of Mayor Whetsel, realized that council meetings were how things got done and decided to form their own council with the blessing of their parents and Mayor Whetsel. The Kids Council is open to any resident within the boundaries of Risingsun who is under 18 years of age. Their meetings are the last Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. in the township hall on Main Street. Mayor Whetsel or the president of village council attend every meeting to provide advice or just to keep track of what the other council is up to.
The council is much more than child’s play. “They can’t pass laws,” said mother Alice Connor, “but they do come up with ideas and they do what they need to do to make them happen.” Current plans of the Kids Council include a September 26 Social Bash for the village. The kids have arranged for a food truck, midway games, and a face painter. They borrowed a dunk tank and solicited participants for a chili cookoff. The village police department will be handing out medical ID cards, and a barbershop quartet from Fostoria will put on a show.
“Except for using my kitchen table for making posters, they are doing everything on their own,” said Alice Connor. The kids started the council with their allowance money. They bought stamps and envelopes, they walked the streets of the village and wrote down the addresses. Then they made up some fliers and mailed them out to introduce the Kids Council to the residents. Now that they are up and running, they have received some donations for operations. They are also entrepreneurial: the food truck operator will be paying the Kids Council a percentage of proceeds from the September Social Bash.
The next event that they are considering is a Halloween after party in the fire house. Mayor Paige Curlis has already gotten the cooperation of the village fire department. Recording Secretary Taylor Curlis said that they hope that next year the Kids Council will be bigger. “Hopefully, a lot of kids,” she said.
Mayor Whetsel is all for involving young members of the community in government. “The kids council is a great idea and the kids are doing an awesome job. They have put a lot of effort in their planning and are always asking what they can do or not. They even helped with are income surveys and are learning what working in government is really like. I hope they stay involved because we need to develop good leaders.”
The Risingsun Kids Council meets on the last Thursday of every month. Kids Council Mayor Paige Curlis is at left. Sister Taylor is at the end of the table.