City council meetings tend to draw a more “mature” demographic. City councilman hopeful Ryan Martin, however, wants to see a shift in that dynamic, and he hopes his presence on the council will lead the way.
“People my age don’t get out in our city much and make a change, so I want (them) to actually have a word in what goes on for once. I want to be the face of the youth in Elgin,” the 19-year-old said.
Originally from Boise, Idaho, Martin moved to Elgin five years ago, graduating from Elgin High School in the spring. For his senior project, he didn’t want to pursue the typical “job shadowing” route and instead opted to join the Elgin City Council as its student councilor.
“I found it interesting to get into local government,” Martin said. “It was great to be able to see what we want to do. I talked to my classmates about what was going on at the city council meetings and what they thought about (issues) and we had little discussions.”
Martin sat on the council the entirety of his senior year, vacating the position in June following his graduation. Student councilors are appointed all the rights and privileges of a city councilor, aside from an official vote. When the council calls for a vote, student councilors are able to offer an advisory vote. Though the council is interested in hearing how they vote on particular issues, their input doesn’t officially count toward the council’s final decisions.
However, student coun cilors are able to participate in council discussions and share the opinions of their peers in their role as a student representative. It’s an opportunity for the council to garner a younger perspective and listen more closely to the wants and needs of Elgin’s youth.
“It allows us to get the opinions of the younger folks in the community,” Elgin Mayor Allan Duffy said of the position. “They’re not only reporting back and forth (from the high school to the city council) but opening a lot of communication between the younger people, the community and the council.”
If elected, Martin wants to expand on his previous role and encourage his peers to attend the council’s monthly meetings, involve themselves more in the work of the city and voice their opinions and/or concerns.
“Beforehand, nobody our age was on the council. We didn’t talk about the council meetings or what was going on with the city,” he said. “After I was on, it gave us a chance to have discussions. I’m sure they’ll feel comfortable talking with me because I’ve been a part of so many organizations at our school. I feel there would be a great (number of) youth coming to meetings, with me getting the word out.”
At 19, Martin would be the youngest on the council by a wide margin. He doesn’t see his age as a disadvantage, though.
“I’ve been there and I’ve had experience (on the council),” he said. “I’m young in doing this kind of stuff, (but) that’s why I have other people to lean on and if I have questions I’m going to ask them. I don’t think my age will be an issue at all.”
Aside from youth involvement, Martin also wants to see continued growth in the city’s downtown area, clean up the city’s physical appearance and promote a greater sense of community pride.
“As a lot of people know, we get a bad reputation and I want to clean that up,” he said. “Elgin is not a bad place. It’s beautiful out here. I want to help lead (the citizens of Elgin to) embrace that we’re a great community — to have more pride in our town.”
Martin is confident his experience and relationships he’s formed with the council will serve him well in his run for one of three open city council positions.
“I feel like (the community) should vote for me because I’m a fresh face. I’ve been on the council for a year, (so) I know what’s going on. I made connections with everybody on the council and they’re a big part of why I want to join. I know that (we would) make the right decisions and keep the city moving forward.”