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Students gain local political perspective

Matt DeYoung • Oct 19, 2017 at 11:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Chloe Weigel said she realizes that her concerns are different than those of Grand Haven mayoral candidates Geri McCaleb and Mike Fritz.

That’s why the Grand Haven High School junior was so interested in what the candidates had to say during a forum at the school on Wednesday.

“Being in high school, we see a lot of issues they might not see, so it was interesting to present those issues to them and get their take on them,” Weigel said.

During the forum, incumbent McCaleb and challenger Fritz spent an hour answering questions posed to them by GHHS students. Many of the questions focused on diversity and environmental issues, but people also asked about the deer cull, downtown parking, short-term rentals and the Grand Landing project.

“It was definitely great to hear their approach on improvements in the community,” said Weigel, who serves as the student representative on the city’s Human Relations Commission. “They were very open to all the suggestions the young people had. They didn’t shoot anything down. They were open to change.”

The candidates were impressed with the questions that came their way from the students.

“I think the questions they asked are the same ones everyone else is concerned with,” Fritz said. “It was good to hear their line of thinking and the questions they might have.”

McCaleb said it was fun getting a chance to connect with the students.

“These kids are either voters or soon-to-be voters,” she said. “It’s important they know how government works, and it’s important that we know what they’re line of thinking is — what they’re most concerned about. A lot of it is what their parents are concerned about.”

Fritz hoped Wednesday’s forum inspired the students to become involved in their community.

“Hopefully, this hits something, and maybe one or two of them might want to become involved in a committee or run for office, be involved in the community,” he said. “As long as they get some kind of involvement, that’s what the whole council thing is about — is getting involved, getting others involved. That’s what makes a community.”

McCaleb said she appreciated the opportunity to help the students learn more about the role of government on a more local level.

“It’s good to get them involved,” she said. “People need to know that their government listens to them. The further government is away from you, the less they have to listen. Your local government, we listen more than anyone else. We’re your neighbors.”

Weigel said she appreciated the opportunity to learn what issues are resonating around Grand Haven.

“It’s great to hear about what’s going on in our community, and how you can be a part of it, how you can improve your own experience within the community,” she said.

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