Mayor talks to students for essay

Mayor Dayton King fielded questions from eighth-grade students at Gloversville Middle School Tuesday to give them a better understanding of his role in the city before they write submissions to a statewide essay contest on the topic of what they would do as mayor. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Dayton King fielded questions from eighth-grade students at Gloversville Middle School Tuesday to give them a better understanding of his role in the city before drafting their submissions to a statewide essay contest on the topic of what they would do as mayor.

The New York State Conference of Mayors is currently accepting submissions to the second annual essay contest based on the writing prompt, “If I were mayor, I would….” The contest is open to eighth-grade students living in a town or village in the state.

Entrants are asked to open their essay with the writing prompt, going on to explain what they would want to do, why and how they would go about it. Submissions are due March 5 and must be between 350 to 500 words.

Essays will be judged on the “what, why and how,” as well as creativity, clarity, sincerity and grammar. Three contest winners will be selected to receive a cash prize of $150 for first place, $75 for second or $50 for third.

Additionally, the first place winner will be invited to NYCOM’s annual meeting in May for recognition, along with the winner’s parents, teacher and local mayor.

After the contest was announced, King contacted eighth-grade teachers at the middle school to see if they would be interested in having their students participate. King and the Common Council then decided to hold a city-wide contest for the eighth-grade students to submit their essays to as well.

King said that a panel of community members will be selected to judge the essays and choose three winners from the city. Essays will be judged locally on criteria similar to the NYCOM contest, prizes for the three winning essays have not yet been determined. The contest winners will be announced at a Common Council meeting later this month.

King participated in a question and answer session in the middle school auditorium for eighth-grade English students to give them insight into what a mayor does before drafting their essay submissions.

Students came with prepared questions written on note cards, asking King about what he does, why he ran for office, the most difficult aspects of his job and what he likes most about his position.

King, originally from Northville, said he moved to the city after graduating from the State University of New York at Oneonta and became involved with a number of organizations in the community. He said that after someone suggested he consider running for mayor, he discussed it with his wife, friends and family before deciding it would be a good way to deepen his involvement in the city and get his young children involved too.

Now in his third term as mayor, King explained his position as essentially being CEO to the city, overseeing operations and the heads of various departments. He added that preparing the city budget is another main focus in the position.

King told students that hiring and firing staff members to make sure the right person is in each position is one of the most difficult aspects of the job and his most frequent and enjoyable task is talking to residents.

“I think what people want to see is they want access to their local officials. They want to be able to reach out to somebody,” King said.

He told students that he tries to be accessible, having published his personal phone number, even offering it to the students so they can reach out if they have a serious question.

The students did have more serious questions, asking King about dealing with pressure, bullying, suicide prevention and how to respond to the rise in school shootings.

King admitted that he has stressful days, but said he tries to remain positive and make the best decisions he can with the information available. He noted that social media can be a great resource to open communication, it can also be an anonymous zone for bullying to take place. As a starting place, he encouraged the students to make the choice not to bully others and to surround themselves with supportive people they can trust.

“The way I choose my life, and the way I encourage all of you to do, is surround yourself with those who make you feel awesome and really just shake off those who are trying to bring you down,” King said. “Root your friends on.”

King reminded the students that they can lift each other up. One simple step they can take is to get to know one another. With an eighth-grade class of around 200 students, he pointed out that they all probably know each other at least a little. If they ever notice a classmate who seems like they’re having a bad day, he said to simply reach out to that person and see how they’re doing as a way to help.

His overall message to the students was to get more involved and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions and concerns.

King mentioned that he had been present at Monday night’s Gloversville Enhanced School District Board of Education meeting where Police Chief Marc Porter had answered questions from parents and residents concerned about the threat of a school shooting at Gloversville Middle School.

City police received complaints from several parents that a school shooting threat had been made on social media over the weekend intended to take place at the middle school Monday. City police along with several local and state agencies investigated the supposed threat before deeming it not credible. No post threatening violence could be found during the investigation.

He echoed the advice of Porter and GESD district staff in telling the students to tell an adult if they ever see something that doesn’t seem right. Even though the threat over the weekend was unfounded, King said that every concern will be taken seriously and any threats will be investigated thoroughly.

“We restarted a conversation,” King said. “I think doing more of this and getting parents to come out and I think in a controlled environment where we can agree that we’re going to disagree on things but we can have a dialogue is what’s needed.”

He encouraged the students to let their voices be heard as conversations continue locally.

“We’ve got to work together,” King said.

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