Kids’ interest in town affairs urged

MOUNT DESERT — Shepperd “Shep” Brown thinks young people should want to learn how town government works and get involved.

Shep is 11.

“I want to start a youth group … to learn and contribute to the politics, vitality and sustainability of our town,” he said in a note to the Board of Selectmen.

His idea, he said, is to provide an opportunity for young people “to give feedback to our town government, problem-solve issues, implement our ideas … and volunteer in the community.”

“I would like your approval,” Shep told the selectmen at their June 5 meeting.

He received not only their approval but their enthusiastic encouragement.

“I work at the high school with a lot of the kids who do community service, and I think this is an amazing opportunity for you guys to start here and grow,” Selectman Wendy Littlefield said.

Town Manager Durlin Lunt said he would do whatever he could to assist Shep and the group he is putting together.

“I am delighted to offer that on my behalf, and I’m sure on behalf of the board,” he said. “I think it’s commendable that these young people are interested in trying to help their community.”

Shep said he was somewhat surprised by the immediate, positive response of the town officials.

“I didn’t actually think they would like it much, but I guess they did.”

Shep is the son of Tom and Kelly Brown and the grandson of Buddy and Becky Brown. F.T. Brown Hardware in Northeast Harbor is their family business.

At the annual town meeting on May 2, the elder Browns were awarded Mount Desert’s first Spirit of America Tribute for their many decades of service to the community. Buddy Brown was town clerk for about 25 years and has been active in a number of community organizations.

“It was very inspiring to see [the award presentation] because I hadn’t actually known much about what they had done,” Shep told the Islander.

His parents said they could not be prouder.

“He’s one of those kids who is inquisitive and always wanting to figure out the whys and hows of things and how to make things better,” Kelly Brown said.

Tom Brown said Mount Desert, like many other small towns, has seen a decline in the number of young people over the years.

“This may be one way of trying to get them back, with the ability to support things or make things happen,” he said. “It’s a way to encourage involvement, where they can take pride in their town and want to take care of their town.”

So far, Shep said, only two or three other boys have expressed interest in the group he is forming. As for others he has approached, he said, “When I tell them it’s something for politics, they just go off and talk to someone else.”

One who is on board with the idea is Haji Avila, 13, whose father, Kyle, is the town’s tax assessor and has agreed to be the group’s mentor.

“I’ll have them come to the town office and take them to the various departments and introduce them to the people here and tell them what they do,” Avila said.

“I’ll give them a crash course on municipal government and then have them go to a Planning Board meeting and a Board of Selectmen’s meeting.”

The group, which is calling itself Youth in Politics, is for anyone age 9-17. They plan to meet once a week at Town Hall.

Avila said Shep and the others who are involved so far have expressed interest in having input into the town’s plans for the redevelopment of Main Street in Northeast Harbor.

Shep said that when he isn’t being home-schooled or thinking about making an impact on town government, he enjoys playing football with his friends, drawing pictures, woodburning, assembling barbecue grills at his family’s hardware store and playing golf. He is on the Mount Desert Elementary School’s golf team and takes private lessons at Kebo Valley Golf Club.

He would like to go to Notre Dame on a golf scholarship.

If he doesn’t make his fortune as a professional golfer, he said he might like to be an engineer.

Whatever career path he chooses, Tom Brown said, “I just hope he’s successful so he can take care of me.”


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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