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The City Journals

A+B=C-ivics lesson from South Jordan mayor, city officials

Jun 04, 2019 03:52PM ● By Julie Slama

South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey takes a selfie along with Jordan School District secondary students and administrators on the school bus after providing an educational tour of the city. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When students play soccer or walk their dog in a city park this summer, they may have a little more appreciation for it, thanks to their mayor.

About 50 junior high and high school students jumped aboard the Jordan School District bus April 9, joined by school district officials, Jordan Board of Education members, city officials and South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey, who gave students a lesson about their city. Two days later, elementary students got their chance in “Seeing SoJo with the Mayor.”

“It’s a behind-the-scenes tour that serves a civic engagement learning opportunity for students,” Ramsey said. “This is unprecedented; it hasn’t been done before. We had senior staff share information about how the city functions and answered questions they had as we traveled through the city. Many young people don’t realize what all goes on to run a city.”

The students traveled by Oquirrh Lake and Glenmoor area, Holt historic farmhouse, Salt Lake County fairgrounds and Highland, Bingham Creek and City parks. They saw fire station 62 and the future location of station 64, the Frontrunner station, construction on Bangerter interchanges and the riverfront commerce park area. They learned about animal control, public works yard, and the city hall and public safety.

In fact, their school bus even got pulled over — by the police chief — and they learned the role of the city’s police.

“I think they thought it was for real when the bus pulled over,” Jordan Administrator of High Schools Brad Sorensen said. “It certainly got their attention.” 

It was hands-on learning by city officials from the city planner and city engineer to the director of administrative services and director of public works. The city’s associate director of parks and recreation, fire chief and deputy fire chief, deputy police chief and the director of city commerce and sustainability all took a role in the tours.

Students learned the history of South Jordan, including its former name.

“It was called Gale, since there are gale force winds. In fact, our city baseball team was named after that town name, Red Gales,” she said, adding that the name lives on in the former South Jordan library is known as the Gale Center of History & Culture.

After the tour during a lunchtime discussion, students posed questions to the mayor and city officials on topics such as air quality, property taxes, water and green space . 

Ramsey told students South Jordan became increasingly populated from its once farming community, and “it’s trying to catch up” with such things like public transit access. However, with Jordan School District having the largest fleet of natural gas school buses, the air quality may be better than in other areas of the Salt Lake Valley.

“South Jordan is where people want to move to. Business is thriving, but it’s still a place people want to live. In 10 years, it really has changed,” she said, adding that city planners are ensuring green space.

In fact, recently go.verizon.com ranked South Jordan as the No. 4 city across the U.S. in its annual “Best Small Cities to Start a Small Business” report.

With elementary students, students asked about high-density housing.

“City council, which has a representative for each part of the city, helps us decide how we want our city to look and grow and feel. So, it’s their decision to choose the land and where we would want more residents or less,” she said, adding that much work is done with the city planner and others.

They also asked Ramsey about her role as mayor, her goals and challenges, and if it was her childhood dream and what she would be doing if she were not elected mayor.

“I’d probably sleep more,” said the former elementary school student body officer, who added that she’d continue her passion of volunteering with the state PTA as well as in the community.

Ramsey hopes that this opportunity gave students a chance to talk to city officials and learn about the city where they live. She provided students with a set of informational postcards about departments and places they visited. 

“They had some insightful questions showing their level of engagement,” Ramsey said. “This was a great opportunity to give kids a chance to talk to the heart of the people where they live.”

Bingham High senior Nadia Sabry wanted to meet Ramsey and learn about local government. 

“It’s interesting to learn what legislative powers she has and the city has in facing issues,” Sabry said.

Classmate Hanna Msiska said learning from Ramsey provided her behind-the-scenes information about the infrastructure.

“I wanted to meet the first woman mayor and see the city from a different perspective,” said the student leader and senior high school student. “I learned that people in our local government are much more accessible than I thought. They talked to me and said if I have concerns, I can email or call them.”

Elk Meadows sixth-grader Jayden Chamberlain said he learned more about the city than he did when he visited with his Cub Scout pack.

“I learned a lot about places in the city I didn’t know anything about,” Jayden said after visiting the Judge Michael Boehm’s courtroom.

His classmate, Preston Margetts, who is the student council president, said he learned it was “cool” to be mayor.

“She knows something about everything,” he said. “My favorite is seeing how many miles of road — 299 miles — are in our city.”

Jordan Board vice president Tracy Miller said she learned the fact light posts were painted black for aesthetic reasons, something about the city she didn’t know.

“This has been a great opportunity for our students to learn about the city and hope they will be involved as citizens and as future leaders,” she said.

Jordan Associate Superintendent Anthony Godfrey appreciated the effort of Ramsey and her staff.

“It’s a great way to bridge the city and what it does and hopes to accomplish with the district in educating our youth,” he said. “It’s giving them a better understanding with what is involved in the city where they live.”