Town of Webb UFSD students interview County Legislator Patrick Russell

Herkimer County Legislator Patrick Russell visited Mr. Tim Leach’s AP Government Class for a question and answer session regarding the county legislative process, at the Town of Webb school on Wednesday, May 28.

Clockwise from left: Samantha Notley, Tecwyn Williams, Herkimer County Legislator Patrick Russell, Will Johnson, Kelsey Simpson and Sara Dempsey. Courtesy photo

Clockwise from left: Samantha Notley, Tecwyn Williams, Herkimer County Legislator Patrick Russell, Will Johnson, Kelsey Simpson and Sara Dempsey. Courtesy photo

The students had all been participating in a government internship experience sponsored by the 4-H Club of Herkimer.

“The students go down to Herkimer on five different schools days to learn about and participate in different aspects of government that the county provides,” said Mr. Leach. 

One day they met and spoke with Sheriff Christopher Farber, another was spent with the Social Services department. A third day was spent at the county courthouse.

They also held a mock legislature meeting, where the students proposed a bill and voted on its passage.

“Usually some of the legislators are there to give their input,” Leach said.

Every school in Herkimer County is invited to participate.

The final day of the internship had the students traveling to the state capital in Albany.

“This year we got to meet with Senators Hugh Farley and James Seward, and Assemblyman Marc Butler—representatives associated with our district,” Leach said.

Mr. Leach’s AP Government students are Tecwyn Williams, Will Johnson, Sam Notley, Sara Dempsey, and Kelsey Simpson; all seniors.

The classroom visit by Legislator Patrick Russell was to satisfy a requirement that the students interview a member of the legislature.

“The session lasted about an hour. Pat talked and answered all questions the kids had. He is the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, so he had a lot of great information that the kids were interested in knowing,” Mr. Leach said.

They wanted to know about the operation of the county legislature, the size of the county budget, what kind of tax revenue is generated from the Town of Webb, and how much Webb receives back in the form of revenue and services, said Leach.

“It was really informative and intimate. Patrick was really great in talking to the kids,” he said.

All students that participate find the internship experience rewarding, according to Leach.

Some are inspired to consider futures in government, he said.

Colin Criss, a Town of Webb graduate and current Harvard University student, participated two years ago, according to Leach. “He seems to have a strong interest in government. I could see him serving in public office some day.”

Lauren Holt and Jordan Levi participated in the program last year. Holt is currently majoring in journalsim at Emerson College in Boston. Levi is due to graduate from the Town of Webb in June.

“The fundamental goal is for the students to become more informed citizens and to better understand what the government does,” said Mr. Leach.

“Myself included! I am much more comfortable knowing what local government does, and what state level and national level government does relative to county government, having experienced these internships with my students,” he said.

“I’m trying to instill in these kids a sense of civic duty. They understand better why they need to vote, why they need to be involved at every level of government; not just those at the local and federal levels,” Leach said.

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