'If I Were Mayor, I would...' Sharpsburg sixth-grader wins state essay contest

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Essay winner Keera McDonald receives her award. From left are Sharpsburg Mayor Wendell Staley, teacher Debbie Notestine, Wei McDonald, House Minority Leader and GMA luncheon guest speaker Stacey Abrams, essay winner Keera McDonald and GMA President and Metter Mayor Billy Trapnell.

By REBECCA LEFTWICH
rebecca@newnan.com
It surprised Woodward Academy sixth-grader Keera McDonald of Sharpsburg to learn mayors aren’t as powerful as she thought, but it surprised her even more when the essay she wrote on the subject won a statewide contest.
McDonald was named one of 12 district winners in the Georgia Municipal Association’s “If I Were Mayor, I Would...” essay contest, learning at a GMA luncheon given in the students’ honor that her piece was the top pick out of more than 6,000 initial submissions by sixth-graders throughout the state. (The winning letter is at the bottom of this story.)
“I was speechless with excitement,” said the Sharpsburg resident. “I definitely didn’t expect to win.”
Business kept her dad, Michael, from attending the awards ceremony. He was boarding a plane for a business trip to Shanghai when McDonald and her mom, Wei, called him with the news.
“It definitely made his long flight a lot more enjoyable,” Wei McDonald said. “Michael and I are very proud of Keera.”
McDonald wrote in her essay that she would focus on increasing tourism and boosting employment as mayor. She also would impose fines on banks that failed to maintain foreclosed properties and hold monthly town hall meetings to hear from residents.
“Being raised in a small town gives Keera fresh perspectives that city kids may not have,” Wei McDonald said.
One of 955 entries submitted from GMA’s District 3, her piece was chosen by a panel of officials – who also are educators or involved in youth programs – based on creativity, clarity, sincerity of thought and proper use of grammar.
“The essays we receive offer great insight into what is really important to our young people,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton. “They have great ideas and we commend Keera for her well-written, thoughtful essay.”
McDonald entered the contest as an assignment for her sixth grade writing class at Woodward Academy. Her teacher, Debbie Notestine, guided her through the research and outline process and encouraged her along the way, and she attended the luncheon at which her student was named state winner.

“I had a lot of help, and I worked really hard on the essay,” said McDonald, who spent several weeks on the assignment. She said teachers from The Heritage School, where she formerly was a student, also deserve partial credit for her success.

“My third grade teacher, Ms. Barbee, and my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Kay, taught me a lot about writing,” she said.

“While Keera represented Woodward Academy and District 3 in this contest, the honor also belongs to Coweta County, The Heritage School, our good friends and our great neighbors,” Wei McDonald said.

Another guest at the luncheon was Sharpsburg Mayor Wendell Staley.

“We talked about his job and about some of the ideas I had in my essay,” McDonald said. “He invited me to a city council meeting.”

In her research, McDonald discovered mayors can’t raise taxes or many other things by themselves and have to work together with city councils and other officials. Still a mayor’s job sounds interesting.

“I might want to do it,” McDonald said. “But a lot of other jobs sound interesting, too. I know I want to do something to contribute and make a difference.”
• • • • • • •
If I Were Mayor, I Would...
By Keera McDonald
If I were mayor, I would make my town a better place to live by focusing on tourism and increasing jobs. I present just a few of my ideas and how I would achieve these goals.
First, I will meet with my city council to agree on a new budget that includes money to promote tourism.
I will advertise my town’s positive attributes. This will attract more tourists, create new jobs and further increase tax revenue. There are many historic homes and natural attractions in Coweta County where I live. I would advertise these historical and natural attractions by marketing on a social network like Facebook, a site that is popular with many people. I would also organize a Make Our Town Beautiful Day to encourage all citizens to plant trees and flowers and clean up litter. We might also hold an annual Flower Festival to raise funds for renovations to the town.
My second objective is to boost employment. My efforts to increase tourism will contribute to this goal. The other reason I will increase jobs is to reduce foreclosed properties which make the town less attractive to tourists. I will also propose to the city council to impose fines on banks if they neglect the foreclosed homes in our town.
Mayors can’t solve all of the town’s problems by themselves! So, as mayor, I will organize a monthly Monday Nights with the Mayor at the town hall. All the citizens with ideas for accomplishing our goals for quality of life and tourism growth can participate. I would take my city council on visits to well run, regional towns to share ideas about town development.
There are so many things I could think of to do if I were mayor. The few I address are some of the most important. Above all, I believe that the key to building a strong foundation for making a town a better place to live starts with making sure its citizens lead secure and comfortable lives.





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