Marysville Pilchuck High School students talk with Snohomish County council members Jared Mead and Nate Nate Nehring during a Civic Engagement Day event hosted at the county campus on Thursday, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Pilchuck High School students talk with Snohomish County council members Jared Mead and Nate Nate Nehring during a Civic Engagement Day event hosted at the county campus on Thursday, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Students meet ‘actual people’ behind Snohomish County government

Democrat Jared Mead and Republican Nate Nehring invited about 150 students to the county campus, to put a face to local government.

EVERETT — A bipartisan team of County Council members gave local high school students a glimpse into the inner workings of the Snohomish County government this week.

Democrat Jared Mead, 31, and Republican Nate Nehring, 27, who both serve on the Snohomish County Council, have been traveling to local schools for the past few years to talk about the role of government. This year, however, they decided to make the experience a bit more hands-on.

About 150 students from 13 different schools came to the county campus for the first “Civic Engagement Day.” Gathered in the courthouse and county administrative building, students heard from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of Public Defense, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Public Works and the County Council. They also got to hang out with the K-9 unit.

Andrew Powell, a senior at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, said he felt like the experience provided a personal aspect that made government easier to connect with.

“In AP Government, we talk a lot about the president and Congress,” Powell said. “But looking at these more intricate parts of our community where there are government positions is really unique. You see that these are actual people, and they have a lot of difficult choices to make.”

County Council Chair Mead and Vice Chair Nehring make the youngest council leadership team in decades. The duo said it was refreshing to hear from students.

“They have totally different perspectives on life — on different policies — than we do as adults with kids,” Mead said. “We pay property taxes and all the different things that make us adults, versus students who aren’t weighed down by some of the things that maybe weigh us down. Students are kind of unshackled in that way. They have creative ideas coming out of left and right field.”

Mead and Nehring posed the students with real-life dilemmas that the County Council has faced in meetings: Last fall, the county purchased two hotels to turn into low-barrier shelters for those facing homelessness; they have also been asked respond to complaints about noisy roosters in neighborhoods.

“How do we decide who gets the spots in the shelters,” Nehring asked. “What would you do about the roosters waking citizens up at 3, 4 a.m. in the morning?”

Students chatted in groups, brainstorming ideas — some compassionate and creative, others off-the-wall and borderline illegal. All ideas were heard.

Groups rotated, and members from the prosecutor’s office shared their personal journeys from high school to the courtroom, offering suggestions about law schools and how to identify passions and motivations. Surface Water Management explained their role in the community. Park rangers answered questions about their day-to-day.

Senior Bishop Drewery said she plans to pursue a career as an attorney and is grateful for the first-hand experience and window into local government Wednesday provided.

“It’s the kind of thing you see in books and movies, but you never really imagine it actually happening,” Drewery said.

Mead and Nehring also discussed the importance of bipartisanship, especially as students approach graduation and step out into the world.

“Going through life, people all of a sudden get polarized in groups — left or right — but students aren’t there yet,” Mead said. “When you’re in school, the whole idea is to just learn, think, expand, challenge things, be wrong, be right, and test theories. And that’s what you’re seeing them do.”

Looking forward, Mead and Nehring hope Civic Engagement Day becomes an annual event. The students said they hope so, too.

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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