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Students take over Munhall council meeting

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 2:11 a.m.
Norma Kutscher | Daily News
Council President Joseph Ballas explains to Ben Novotny the use of the gavel to bring the meeting to order.
Norma Kutscher | Daily News
Third-graders at Park Elementary took over Munhall council meeting Wednesday and participated in Government Days. Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar wants students to experience local government with help from council members, borough employees, fire and police personnel and public works employees. Kicking off the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance are the mayor and third-grade Mayor Matt Marone.

Munhall officials never looked younger as Park Elementary School third-graders took over Wednesday night's council meeting as part of the annual Government Days.

Students received first-hand looks at how local government is run by filling the roles of mayor, councilors, solicitor and other important positions and conducting business with their new peers.

“They did great,” council president Joe Ballas said. “They always do great. Future leaders, that's what they are. This is my favorite meeting every year.”

Ballas was joined by student Ben Novotny, who ran the meeting and made sure everyone knew when a motion passed and when the meeting was adjourned by banging the gavel.

Brandan Mains served as vice president. He was assisted by his adult counterpart Rob Falce.

“I thought that it's cool,” Brandan said. “I voted.”

Brandan said he plans on running for council when he gets older.

“This is one of the proudest times of my life,” Brandan's mother Elaine Mains said. “I think that they do understand (government), and I just think they got a bigger sense of community.”

Elaine Mains said her son shows leadership qualities. “He's very demanding,” she said.

Mayor Raymond Bodnar swore the children in to their respective posts prior to the start of the meeting.

“They're all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” Bodnar said afterward. “They're raring to go. I love this night. This is one of my favorite nights being mayor. The kids are the best.”

In school, students gave speeches and made campaign signs. Their classmates voted for those they wanted to fill the elected positions. Those elected to council filled non-elected positions with their other classmates.

Third-grader Matt Marrone was elected mayor. He said he ran a campaign about helping people.

“It's a hard job to do all the stuff,” Matt said about being mayor. “To tell everybody to do all those things ... (I) hope to make the community safer.”

Jill Fleming-Salopek, Steel Valley assistant high school principal and former borough councilwoman, watched with delight as her daughter Kelsey Salopek conducted herself as solicitor.

“It's a great exercise in government for these kids to learn not only about their community but the responsibility of being an elected official while working for the borough,” Fleming-Salopek said. “I really think the third-grade teachers do a great job with the whole exercise ... When the jobs came home (Kelsey) didn't know what a borough solicitor was. We talked about the different jobs, and that's how she ended up choosing that.”

“I thought it was fantastic,” Park Elementary principal Lauren Baughman said. “They have put together such great preparation for it. They've worked extremely hard, and I am extremely proud of them.”

Other third-grade councilors were Tatumn Coyle, Riley Furrick, Tyler VanHorn, Soraya Waddell and Brooke Weber. Other positions were filled by Kailey Haughey as borough manager, Katie Iwaniuk as borough secretary, Lexi Wallace as chief of police, Olivia Weis as police captain, Madison Bowman as detective, Megan Rager as fire chief, Cole Patrick Zugar as fire marshal, Michael Dugan Jr. as public works director, Veronica Brocato as borough engineer, Joey McMahon as code enforcement officer, JJ Faulk as paramedic, Sarah Katanick as EMT, Katie Ligeros as dispatcher, Alex Serenka as constable, Billy Curran as tax collector and Lornna Kostelnik as sewer authority manager.

Students will return to the borough building today around 11:45 a.m. for a tour of the facilities and learn more about Munhall daily operations as well as see a demonstration by firefighters and police.

A parade starts at 1 p.m. It goes from the borough building, up Main Street to W. Oliver Road and the school district's administrative offices, and ends at Park Elementary School near the intersection of Main and Cambria streets. The young officials will meet with their classmates there and continue the celebration.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or

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