Opening the Doors of Mystery

Alexis Pursel, Dave Drotzmann
Although she doesn't actually sit at the Hermiston City Council table, Alexis Pursel does have a recognized role within the city council as its student representative. The position was the idea of Mayor Dave Drotzmann.

[quote style=”2″]High School Students Gain New Insights into Hermiston’s City Government Thanks to Alexis Pursel and Her Role as Student Representative[/quote]

Alexis Pursel keeps a pretty busy schedule. The Hermiston High School senior is involved in student government, drama and choir, not to mention preparing for graduation and getting ready for college this fall.

But that didn’t stop the 17-year-old from volunteering to serve as the school’s student representative to the Hermiston City Council.

The position of student representative, a new one for the council, was the idea of Mayor Dave Drotzmann.

“We had one when I was on the school board,” Drotzmann said. “It’s a great learning process for the student and it gives us a young person’s perspective on things as well as a little insight into what’s going on at the high school.”

That works both ways. Since she began coming to city council meetings in February, Alexis has seen, first-hand, what goes on inside the council chambers.

“It’s kind of opened the mystery doors of what goes on here,” said Alexis, the daughter of Cody and Angela Pursel. “I really enjoy my time here and taking it back and getting feedback from our class. It gets everybody more engaged. It’s a nice break from the same ol’ same old.”

At Monday’s council meeting, Alexis, who will be attending Whitworth University this fall, gave the council members an update on recent activities at the high school, including preparations for the Junior-Senior Prom, a just-completed student-led blood drive and the early stages of student body elections.

Then it was her turn to sit back and find out what the council was up to – which meant sitting through a two-hour meeting in which the council proclaimed April 14-20 as National Telecommunicator’s Week, passed an ordinance naming a new playground at Victory Square Park after former Mayor Bob Severson, approved a liquor license for a local business, and held a long back-and-forth discussion on a proposal by the city to turn all its misdemeanor cases over to the county for prosecution.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, Alexis’ job as student representative to the council was to report all of that back to her fellow students on the school’s leadership council.

“I’ll get some feedback from the students and just keep everybody informed about what’s going on in city government,” said Alexis, who also serves as student body vice president at HHS.

Drotzmann said he hopes the student representative position encourages students to play a bigger role in the community.

“I hope we get more students civically involved and get them willing to participate in city service and want to make a better community,” Drotzmann said. “This is a process through their leadership at the high school that can get them involved at a young age and hopefully get them to become young leaders within their communities.”

That may already be happening, thanks to Alexis’ attendance at council meetings. She said the recent ordinance passed by the Hermiston City Council outlawing the purchase and possession of “implements of graffiti” by minors was a big topic of conversation within the high school. Of particular interest was the designation of felt-tipped pens wider than a quarter inch as implements of graffiti.

“That brought up some big questions, but we can still buy our normal Sharpies,” Alexis said with a laugh. “But it did bring up some good conversation about the graffiti problem in Hermiston and how we could try to get more involved in the community and try to help solve this problem.”

And that was good news as far as the mayor is concerned.

“Part of the most challenging thing that I think you have as a public safety agency is holding people accountable,” Drotzmann said. “And I think the students could participate in that process, so I appreciate the fact that they’re talking about it and they’re having the conversation.”

Alexis said her involvement with the city council has sparked a new interest in city government among the students at the high school.

“We had never talked about (city issues before),” she said. “It wasn’t anything that came up because we weren’t there. I like to think that we do a lot for our school and our community, but it’s definitely opened up a door to actually start talking about these things and how government works and how it’s changing in our city.”