Nellie Bennett fifth graders talk politics with Boro mayor and councilwoman
Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School fifth graders got an inside look into local politics this week courtesy of Point Pleasant Boro’s own Mayor Bob Sabosik and Councilwoman Pam Snyder, who visited the fifth grade classes this week to take part in an interactive civics lesson and to answer students’ questions about Point Pleasant’s governing process.
The visits were arranged to complement the fifth grade’s Social Studies unit on elections.
“With Election Day just around the corner, Social Studies lessons have been focused on the democratic process,” said fifth grade teacher Lisa Collins, who coordinated the visits with the help of Councilwoman Snyder, the parent of one of Mrs. Collins’ students.
“So when Councilwoman Snyder contacted me to ask if I’d like Mayor Sabosik to come and visit my class I jumped at the chance to have him come not only to my class but to all the fifth grade classes,” she said. “Because the entire fifth grade is currently learning about the election, the fifth grade teachers and I felt there was no one better to help educate the students about the election than our local elected officials.”
The mayor and councilwoman spent approximately 30 minutes in each of the school’s five fifth grade classes answering students’ questions about the Boro’s governing process among other things.
In addition to enquiring as to whether Mayor Sabosik lives in a White House-like official government residence (he doesn’t) the students posed questions to the mayor, like:
- “Who are your favorite sports teams?” The NY Yankees and NY Giants
- “Have there ever been any women mayors?” Not in Point Pleasant; however, there are two councilwomen
- “What do you like to do in your spare time?” Go to amusement parks and ride on roller coasters
The enquiring minds of Nellie’s fifth graders also wondered whether Mayor Sabosik receives any freebies or discounts for serving as mayor.
“I cannot accept any gifts or discounts as mayor because it would be unethical,” Mayor Sabosik told the students, relaying a story of a time when a constituent attempted to gift him a tomato plant. “Though I certainly appreciated the gesture, I cannot accept any gifts at all, so in this instance, I asked the citizen to please donate it to the Borough’s Garden Club.”
Mayor Sabosik told the students he also does not accept payment from newlyweds after he performs their wedding ceremonies, encouraging that they make a donation instead to either the town fire department, first aid squad or to the Point Pleasant Borough High School Band.
“I’m a big fan of the band, so I like to help them out whenever possible,” he said.
Another student asked the mayor about his job description to which he replied, “As mayor it’s my job to help create an environment that attracts new residents and businesses and that maintains all the wonderful and unique things that make our town a great place to live.
“My guiding principle has been to make the town better than it was when I started,” said the mayor. “We live in a great community, with great people and businesses and one of the best school systems in the state, with every new initiative and plan, the Council and I work together to determine whether it will help improve our community, if the answer is yes, then we pursue it further.”
Councilwoman Snyder then fielded some questions about the role of the Town Council.
“The Council meets twice each month,” she said. “There are six Council members and at the start of every meeting, each of us gives a speech on how we’re working to improve the town. We are all responsible for serving as a liaison to one of the town’s committees – be it the environmental commission, the recreation commission or planning board – so we attend the meetings and report back to each other. There is a lot of paperwork and a lot of homework but it’s all worth it if we succeed in making the town better for the residents.”
Mayor Sabosik and Councilwoman Snyder spoke a little about the town’s budgeting process before encouraging students to speak up if they have ideas on town improvements.
“The Town Council and I are available to you, your parents and the entire Point Pleasant community,” Mayor Sabosik said. “If you have any thoughts or ideas or if your parents have any suggestions for our town then we want to know. We have to work together to make our town the best it can be.”
The mayor then shared with the students his vision for Point Pleasant’s future, he said, “In addition to town improvements, we want to continue to attract new families and businesses to our town.
“I’d also really like to rebuild the downtown area,” he added, letting the students on some inside information about the business that will soon occupy the corner of Route 88 and Bridge Avenue, which is currently undergoing construction. “It’s going to be a new 7-11.”
“We’re very grateful to Mayor Sabosik and Councilwoman Snyder for taking the time to visit our students,” said Mrs. Collins. “I think it’s wonderful that they allocated so much of their valuable time to come to all of our fifth grade classrooms and answer our students’ questions.”
Mrs. Collins said that the fifth grade classes have been studying the roles of elected officials for the past several weeks, learning about the responsibilities of the president, vice president, governor and mayor.
“When we learned the mayor would be visiting our classes, the students prepared a list of questions they wanted to ask,” she said. “Mayor Sabosik and Councilwoman Snyder patiently answered every question – even those that deviated from their list, like the mayor’s favorite roller coaster! It was a great experience for the students.”
“Educating children about democracy and the function of government helps them to develop a sense of civic responsibility while encouraging their future participation in the democratic process,” said Superintendent of Point Pleasant Borough Schools Vincent S. Smith. “Introducing students to and helping them build a relationship with members of our local governing body further helps strengthen children’s connection to the community while authenticating their lessons on the function of local government in a unique and meaningful way. I thank Mayor Sabosik and Councilwoman Snyder for taking time from their busy schedules to teach our students that it’s never too early to start making a difference in the community.”