By LISA SIMPSON STRANGE
Glasgow Daily Times
What do government officials really do and how do the different city and county departments work? What’s it like to go to court or to jail? How do 911 dispatchers turn urgent phone calls into life-saving actions by first responders? How does water get from Barren River Lake to the tap inside a local home? What is B.I.T.S. (Barrens Information Technology Systems) and why is it important to so many different agencies and businesses in Glasgow and Barren County?
These were just a few of the questions that were answered for students from Barren County and Glasgow schools during Youth Government Day on Thursday.
The annual event allows students to learn more about how things in their community really work and what city and county entities have to do to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly.
Ninety-five young people were divided into five groups and began their day at Glasgow City Hall where Mayor Rhonda Trautman’s office, city council chambers and various city departments are located.
“You are members of our community and you will eventually be voting members of our community. You will have (opportunities) available for you to participate in our community whether you are voting for elected office, running for elected office or working for the city or the county. There’s a lot of ways we will see you down the road,” Trautman said to students.
The groups rotated between the Barren County Courthouse, Barren County Government Building, Barren County Detention Center, 911 Center, Glasgow police and fire departments, and the Plaza Theatre for different tours and presentations.
At the courthouse, Barren County Circuit Judge Phil Patton explained procedures that are followed in his courtroom and Barren County Circuit Court Clerk Krissie Coe Fields told the students about the duties of her office, which include issuing driver’s licenses and maintaining court records.
Students received a tour of the jail, the police and fire stations and 911 dispatch operations.
At the Plaza, they saw presentations from the Glasgow Water Company and B.I.T.S.
At the county government building, Barren County Judge Executive Davie Greer explained the county’s different departments to the students.
“We’re going to keep you all busy and you’re going to learn what’s going on in Barren County a little bit,” Greer told the students.
Thursday morning, before the tours began, a short ceremony was conducted in council chambers at city hall to celebrate Barren County being named one of 100 Best Communities in America for Youth for the second year in a row.
Marcus Kingrey, a member of Barren County Promise and director of Barren County Community Education, introduced dignitaries from both state and local levels who spoke about both the recognition and the importance of Youth Government Day.
Greer said the award was a plus for the community.
“We think we’ve got a lot going on for our young people. We hope you think so too,” she said to the students. “If you get involved in things going on in the community, you’re going to find that there is a lot going on.”
Trautman said the award was another recent big announcement for Glasgow and Barren County.
“I think it says a lot about the community and the efforts of the Promise team that are representatives from all different organizations in the community that have come together and worked hard to get this recognition,” she said.
Of the local agencies, Wendell Cave, a representative from Gov. Steve Beshear’s office, said, “It is through your collaborative efforts locally that Barren County has become an outstanding place for young people to live, learn and thrive.”
Cave read letters from Beshear, one of which urged the students to become engaged in public affairs. That it is important that the voices of young people to be heard.
“Achieving this award once is quite an honor. Doing it two years in a row is exceptional,” said Holly Lewis, representative for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Elaine Walker, Kentucky Secretary of State and former Bowling Green mayor, encouraged each of the students present to register to vote when they turn 18.
“You have the power to change things,” she said. “You just need to be involved.”
State Rep. Johnny Bell, Glasgow, told the students to believe in themselves and their abilities.
“You can achieve anything you want to achieve. ... There are always roads and opportunities to be successful. ... Believe in yourself. Believe in others,” he said.
Ryan Hogan, from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s office, said the award was symbolic of the whole area and the values of the communities that nuture the success of families and children.
“Take every road of opportunity you have and don’t let anything hold you back,” he advised the students.
Bob Reece, former director of Glasgow Independent School’s Success Academy, was recognized for the award he received for a dropout retention program in Washington, D.C., recently.
“For Barren County and Glasgow to continue to be among those 100 best, everyone must complete high school,” he said. “We have to create an environment where it is simply unacceptable for anyone not to complete high school.”
Graduation is the key that unlocks higher education and better jobs, Reece said.
Victoria Watson, a Glasgow High School freshman, thought attending the event was a good thing to do.
“It’s important to know what we need to do for the future – to learn how we can affect our community in a positive way,” she said.
Another GHS freshman, Brooke Velador, said the award was a plus for Glasgow and was impressed with the speakers for the program.
“I think it’s a really great honor that we were able to let everybody know how good a community Barren County is,” she said. “It’s cool to hear the people who represent our state and community and to see what they have to say about all of it.”