By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Having a youth councilor on the Keizer City Council isn’t a new thing.
This school year, that role is being filled by McNary High School senior Ryan Edsall.
For the first time, however, there are two youth involved, as Jeremy Darst is serving as the youth liaison to the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
If Mayor-elect Cathy Clark has her way, even more youth will be involved in such positions in the months to come.
“The answer is yes,” Clark said when asked if she expects the program to grow. “I have talked to Jason Heimerdinger, the leadership teacher at McNary. He has a number of students who want to engage. I want us to place them the rest of the school year, to get the same experience of seeing city government up close. There’s nothing else like that to really help them start to understand the broader perspective of how local government works.”
Edsall’s first-hand experience with local government comes on the heels of the experience he had last summer after being elected a state representative to the national Boys Nation assembly in Washington, D.C. Edsall and other youth delegates had the chance to meet with President Barack Obama.
While he’s relatively new to the council, the workings of city hall aren’t entirely new to Edsall. After all, his dad Vaughn is a longtime detective with the Keizer Police Department.
“It’s weird looking at it from the inside,” said Edsall, 18. “For years I saw dad do his work and all his efforts. I just saw my dad’s effort. From this, I’ve seen that the effort staff puts in is tedious. It’s no easy task, but they get it all done. I have the pinnacle of respect for them. What they do is not an easy task at all.”
Edsall was a cadet through the KPD for three years and knew Clark since she became his SAT tutor.
“This came about when I had gotten back from the Boys Nation this summer,” Edsall said. “I learned they had this youth councilor position. Civics are very important to me. Cathy was the catalyst that helped me get through this.”
For Darst, sitting in on the monthly Parks Board meetings has been a thrill.
“Just sitting and watching has been a great learning experience,” said Darst, a senior at Blanchet Catholic High School. “It’s really cool to be able to sit up there.”
Darst is in his second year of the Leadership Youth program through the Salem Chamber of Commerce.
“You learn how to be a leader and how to help,” said Darst, 17. “I helped with Lemonade Day. In your second year, you’re assigned a position on a board. I had a long list to choose from. I wanted to do something in Keizer, since I live here.”
Darst is a fourth-year KPD cadet – he and Edsall met through that program – and keeps busy swimming for both his school team and Mid-Valley Aquatics, National Honor Society and Outdoor Club. He originally wanted to be the youth councilor.
“I went to the Volunteer Coordinating Committee meeting and talked about my schedule,” Darst said. “After looking at the time commitment of council, I felt another board would be a better choice for me. Cathy Clark helped me through the process. I decided Parks Board would be a good fit with my interest in the outdoors. Parks are such a big part of our community.”
At Darst’s first Parks Board meeting, board members finalized the comprehensive redo of the master plan for Keizer Rapids Park, which was later adopted with a few revisions by the council.
“That part was new to me, seeing how they go about it,” Darst said. “It’s really cool how they do it all. It’s really exciting. I was excited to be part of that and to be able to use those facilities down there.”
Though he’s known Edsall for several years, Darst didn’t realize his friend was looking to take a similar path.
“I didn’t know he was applying,” Darst said. “We showed up at the VCC meeting on the same night. He said he wanted to go that route. It’s cool both of us got assigned to a board. It’s great we have two youth representatives. Youth input on these types of issues is great. We’re the future. Maybe this will give others the opportunities to serve on other boards.”
Next year, Darst plans to follow in older sister Sarah’s footsteps and go to Oregon State University. He will be studying recreational resource management, with a law enforcement minor.
“After that, I hope to go into law enforcement,” he said. “My hopes and dreams are to be with Keizer. But if another agency presents an opportunity, I will go there.”
Darst’s desire to join the KPD goes beyond just living in Keizer.
“I’ve been with them for four years now as a cadet,” he said. “I joined when I was 14. The feeling I get from KPD is great. Everyone is there to help you learn and to make you a better person. The trainings and meetings are great. Officer Jay Prall and Sgt. Dan Kelley are the advisors. They’ve done very well teaching us. We go on many ride-alongs with officers. They do an extraordinary job involving us, letting us use the radio and computers. It’s been a great learning experience. I know how the department works.”
Edsall is focused on going into the military, with a desire to go into the Marine Corps.
“Right now I’m trying to explore all options,” he said.
For now, Edsall is happy to give updates from MHS to councilors.
“I want to leave my mark on Keizer,” he said. “I think these are the proper avenues for students to tap into, if the opportunities are known.”
Darst has appreciated his inside look at both the Parks Board and the KPD.
“I’ve been very blessed with all the opportunities I’ve had,” he said. “To me, it’s about the connections made. That will help me a lot in the future. I’m so thankful for the opportunities. Many people may never get the insider look. It’s not only cool, but also very informative. It’s cool to get the insider look other people don’t have, especially at my age.”
Clark likes what she sees in Edsall and Darst.
“Aren’t they amazing?” said Clark, wrapping up her eighth year on council. “They’re very articulate, hard working, mature and thoughtful. They’re the type of young people we will see as leaders in the future. I’m very impressed with both of them.”