Learning how government works

Thursday, April 30, 2009
Mayor Jean Pace spoke with a Mammoth Spring Elementary class about what it is like being mayor. The students were learning about Arkansas and its local government. Photo by Emily McIntosh

First graders at Mammoth Spring Elementary were learning about how government works and invited Mayor Jean Pace to talk with them April 17 about what it is like being mayor and what she does as mayor of Mammoth Spring.

"We're talking about Arkansas in our class, in mine and the other intern's units, and we were talking about Arkansas government and talking about the local officials. So, we asked Mrs. Pace if she could come and speak to them," Heather Friend, a student intern who was substituting for Katherine Burke's class, said.

"Well, good morning boys and girls," Mayor Pace said. "I am Mrs. Pace. I'm mayor of the city of Mammoth Spring, and I've been mayor for 18 years. That's a long time isn't it? When I was first elected, I didn't think I would last the first four years, but I've been here a long time. I'm going to talk to you about my job's main reasons. Basically, it's a volunteer job. The mayor of Mammoth Spring is paid very, very little money. But, for that job, I get to do a lot of improvements in the town. I've been here long enough that I've been able to make long range plans, which is important, and I've been able to see those things go through."

Because Mammoth Spring is a small town, it sometimes needs extra help. Mayor Pace spoke to the students about writing grants for various projects to keep the town going by attracting jobs and tourists. "As a small town, we have such a small amount of money that if we don't get grants to match to money we have, then we can't have very many things, like a wood chipper to chip up wood, a leaf vacuum to vacuum up the leaves, all the recycling equipment that we have, the new sidewalk on Main Street (and several other projects)," Mayor Pace said.

She said residents have done their part for the city by donating banners for the street lights and plants to keep the city looking beautiful. "The people of Mammoth Spring have been very generous in helping us improve the town," Mayor Pace said.

"The city has never bought a flower of any kind. They've all been donated," Mayor Pace said.

"So, part of my job is finding grants, managing city employees, managing the city's money and getting what we can out of it and enforcing the laws of the city with police officers," Mayor Pace said.

She said she recently wrote a grant for the city's water treatment plant and another grant for a four-wheel-drive vehicle for the police department. "When we get grants, some people think they just come and give you that money, but that's not how it happens. I have to write a big, long story about why we need this (the grant)," Mayor Pace said.

"The police department has been improved the past few years. We've doubled the size of the building," Mayor Pace said. "Now, they have a child locator program. So, if one of our children is taken, they can put your picture on there and other people can help us look for our children, and we get them on a daily basis from other towns where children have been abducted or ran away from home or for some reason the parents don't have the children with them anymore. We get those pictures almost daily so officers can watch for that child."

The mayor has also been able to write a grant for a new fire truck for the Mammoth Spring Fire Department.

Mayor Pace told the students how she was elected to be mayor. "You have to have a petition circulated that has names (of people) who support you, and then you have to file that petition with the county. Then your name is put on the ballot," Mayor Pace said.

She said people in town know of her experience with writing grants, and her husband, who is now deceased, encouraged her to run. "No woman had ever run before, so it was really scary," Mayor Pace said.

"You are what the city needs because you have skills that nobody has around here," Mayor Pace said her husband told her.

Now, Mayor Pace has been able to look back and see what she has accomplished. "I can drive the streets and look down them and say, 'Oh, that happened because I made that happen,' and that's a good feeling," Mayor Pace said.

"Do you like being mayor?" one student asked.

"I really like my job," Mayor Pace said. "I really do."

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