April 16, 2018 - American Government students at Sidney High School enjoyed a visit from Sidney’s Mayor, Mike Barhorst recently. As a guest speaker in several classes, he spent the day discussing his journey into public service, offering details on some of the current projects going on within the city, and answering a myriad of questions generated by the students.
“The mayor has been graciously accepting our invitations to speak with students for the past few years, and he always does a fantastic job sharing the ins-and-outs of serving as a City Council member,” says teacher James Whitman.
Student Sirus Gibson said, “We had a good visit with the mayor. For him to take the time to come here shows he cares about us and our community.”
Mayor Barhorst began his visit describing his upbringing in rural Shelby County where he grew up on a working farm, milking cows before going to school. He also shared that both his grandfather and father were veterans of the World Wars, and they instilled in him the importance of giving back to the community.
The students learned that Mayor Barhorst had graduated from The Ohio State University and later from the University of Dayton and pursued a career as a teacher and school administrator. He jokingly referred to himself as a “retread,” because he was first elected to City Council at the age of 27 in 1977 and served until 1989. He returned to City Council 11 years ago.
Another student, Dean Epley commented, “It was interesting to get to know the mayor personally and learn firsthand how things work in city government.”
And David Ostendorf added, “The mayor’s visit was great. He showed us what happens with City Council on a day-to-day basis.”
The students had several questions for the mayor. One question pertained to budget cuts in education. Mayor Barhorst responded, “As a former educator, I think that while paying lower taxes is popular, cutting funds for education is perhaps the worst way to balance the budget.”
Student Emily Guinther shared her thoughts on this part of the mayor’s presentation, “I agree with what he said about cuts in education. We need to help the next generation who will someday be running the country.”
One student, Noah Collins, was interested in the mayor’s thoughts regarding arming teachers in schools. Noah stated, “If we arm teachers, they might be able to stop a shooter before he kills more students and staff, so I was curious as to what Mayor Barhorst thought about things.”
The mayor responded with a different but straightforward viewpoint, “I think teachers should teach, and if you need more security, then hire more security.”
The students were also interested in how roads were selected for repaving. The mayor explained the rating system conducted each year for every roadway and how each is prioritized by the Street Department. The students, as well as their teacher, were surprised to learn just how much it costs to repair and maintain Sidney streets. Student, Kyana Johnson said, “I liked having the mayor visit because now I know more about our city and what it takes to fix things.”
When asked by students what is the most frustrating part of being mayor, he replied, “Sometimes, people don’t understand how government works, and they expect you do things that aren’t possible. Anything you do in government costs money and involves a decision-making process. We’re not like the federal government because we can’t print money. There are financial and moral limits to what government can do.”
The mayor also distributed copies of Sidney ordinances, the 5-year budget, as well as individual budget manuals for several of the city’s departments. Student Marcellus Franklin-Murphy spent some time exploring the city budget and stated, “I was looking at how much money it costs to maintain Sidney, and it was great to hear the mayor share his views on the economy and explain why he plays such an active role.”
Mr. Whitman asked the mayor a question regarding views of President Trump. Mayor Barhorst got a few laughs from the class with his response, “He’s done some things that needed to be done, but he tweets too much and thrives on conflict which might not be good for the country in the long run.”
Mr. Whitman debriefed with students after the mayor’s visit. “I wanted to help my students process all the information he shared with us. Mayor Barhorst provided me with opportunities to expand what we learn in the curriculum by adding material that directly relates to our students.”
Tyler Dotson expressed his positive thoughts regarding the mayor’s visit, “He’s incredibly respectful and really connects with students. He has years of experience and understands public office.”
Naida Stephens said, “He was very honest with every question he answered, and I respect all the things he’s done for this city.”
Tyler Edwards added, “I believe the mayor truly cares about Sidney and wants the best, however, he can’t possibly fix everything.”
Kierstein Wilson said, “With his visit, I understand a lot more about how things work in city government. The mayor is the face of our city, and he represents us well.”
Other student comments included, Hunter Cook, who said, “The mayor’s visit was a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Several students commented on the mayor’s approachability. Bobbie Wilt stated, “We could tell the mayor was happy to be here, and he wasn’t annoyed by a bunch of teens asking questions.”
Jessica Hatfield shared her thoughts as well, “He was willing to listen to and answer anyone who had a question.”
Student Cooper Collingsworth added, “I’ve never talked with the mayor before he came to class, but I think he’s a genuinely good person.”
Cheyenna Sniffen said, “The mayor’s inspirational stories came from years of experience, and he knows his job means a great deal to the people in Sidney.”
As the end of each period neared, Mayor Barhorst reflected upon his overall view of the community and its citizens, “Sidney is a well-planned community, and a place where you can walk down the street and not be afraid. It’s a place where people can work together.”
SHS Principal Doug Zimmer commented, “We appreciate Mayor Barhorst sharing his experiences with city government and with him taking time out of his busy schedule to speak to our students at Sidney High School.”