Teen thrown into thick of county government
May 13, 2003
Before entering the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting, 16-year-old Erika Schimmel vaguely knew the basic tenets of local government.
Citizens vote for elected officials who convene regularly to make policy decisions regarding county programs and services.
What the South Tahoe High School junior didn’t realize is how formal and important the meetings are.
“It was really structured. Everything on the agenda has a time and place and it was interesting to see how proposals went from proposals to approval,” Erika said of her recent trip to Placerville.
Erika was joined by five others throughout the county for student government day, when selected students who show an interest in government spend a day with the board.
Invited by Supervisor Dave Solaro, who represents South Lake Tahoe, Erika got a crash course on parliamentary procedure and how elected officials make decisions.
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“You have to pay attention to detail and be a good listener,” Erika said. “You also need to know about the entire county and its issues, not just your own (district).”
Armed with a 4-inch thick binder, which contains background information on proposed spending measures and ordinance changes, Erika said county government has its own language and that items on the agenda were technical and hard to follow.
“There’s a lot of information in there the supervisors have to to know and it’s in that binder,” she said. “It’s insane. It’s huge. I would not want to read it, even for one day.”
Aside from the technical side, Erika said supervisors were approachable to the people who got up to speak and the interaction was the best part of her experience.
“They treat everyone with respect,” she said. “They were really warm, not cold as I thought it might be.”
Solaro said Erika asked good questions and followed the process just as well as the five other students, adding that although she didn’t spend the entire day with the group, she had taken an interest in items that pertained to Lake Tahoe.
“Her primary focus was to fully understand the issues as (they) related to Lake Tahoe residents and the benefits and consequences of her decisions,” Solaro said.
Although she doesn’t see herself running for elected office, she is interested in government, albeit working for an agency like the FBI or CIA.
In fact this summer Erika will be attending a Lead America conference in Washington, D.C., where she will study defense and intelligence issues with members of the intelligence community. She plans to attend college after graduating next year and will study psychology and criminology.
Jeff Munson can be reached at (530) 542-8012 or firstname.lastname@example.org