Boone Town Council votes in favor of student representation in local government

Gianna Holiday, Reporter

Boone Town Council voted 4-0 in favor of creating a student-led committee in a meeting on July 14, which  will allow students to represent themselves in local government and town affairs.

The council refrained from officially adopting the resolution due to a lack of details, but requested that Adam Zebzda, director of external affairs for App State’s SGA, work with Town Manager John Ward to draft a new document outlining details of the committee.

This new document will be introduced for council consideration in August. 

“All in all, tonight was a historic moment and I am proud to say we were able to further incorporate students in town affairs, empower their voice, give them a direct seat at the table, and work towards bridging the gap between students and local residents,” Zebzda said.

Town council also voted 4-0 to begin reserving more seats on existing town boards and committees for students. The details of this plan are expected to be released in August.

“These actions are major milestones in Boone politics and I, along with the (SGA) Cabinet, are honored we were able to help make history happen tonight,” Zebzda said.

 Student Body President Michael Davis and Vice President Cameron Hunter, with their Executive Cabinet, pushed for more students to be included in the local political process as App State’s enrollment increases.

“In what will be a challenging semester for the Town of Boone and university, I think this is a proactive effort by our administration to formalize the student voice in Boone politics,” Davis said. “Codification of this board is essential to get more students civically involved and to work more closely with the Town in the long term.”

The administration submitted a resolution for town council’s consideration committing the Town of Boone to establish a municipal-level, student-led advisory board called the “Mountaineer Committee.”

The resolution includes two mandates: cooperation between the Town Hall and SGA and a May 2021 establishment deadline.

“One of the most important benefits of this student advisory board is its potential long-lasting impact,” Davis continued.

In 2008, town council established a “Town and Gown Committee” comprised of county, town, university and student representatives. The body has ceased to exist after a multiyear hiatus and a push for reinstatement in 2014. 

The town also created seats reserved for students on some of its existing advisory boards and committees during SGA’s 47th Session in 2014.

The town hall administration will pass a similar document through SGA’s Student Senate with assistance from the Senate’s external affairs committee chair Jenna Kubiak.

“As students, we are integral members of Boone, whose voices deserve to be represented,” Kubiak said. “A student-led committee is necessary to advocate for the student body’s concerns while connecting Appalachian State University and Boone as a whole.”

Council members Nancy LaPlaca and Dustin Hicks publicly supported the resolution prior to the council’s vote.

“I applaud the resolution submitted by the Davis.Hunter Administration,” LaPlaca said. “Including students in a joint student-Town of Boone advisory committee is long overdue.”

LaPlaca hopes to work with students in creating local sustainability initiatives regarding trash reduction and clean energy while supporting composting and implementing roof-top solar policies.

Hicks, an App State alumnus, said he found it confusing and daunting when first getting involved in Town affairs and sees this Resolution as an important milestone in Boone politics.

“I see a very clear need for more accessible modes of student engagement in local politics,” Hicks said. “A board which specifically focuses on their perspective would be invaluable.”

App State’s SGA said in a statement July 15 that its plan is to have a fully organized proposal brought to town council in August after collaboration with administration at App State.

The statement said, “We’d like to thank town council for their support and the individuals who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure students have adequate representation in Town Hall.”