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Flint, MI– The voice coming through the microphone during the Flint City Council meeting on Jan. 10 was at least an octave higher than the usual deep, gravelly pitch of Council President Eric Mays.
“Madame clerk, roll call,” the person in the president’s seat announced with pride, stretching to speak into the microphone.
This wasn’t Mays, but Dylan Brown, a 9-year-old boy.
Dylan plays Madden and Fortnite. He loves gym class, the colors red, white, and blue, and Hershey’s chocolate. He practices whistling, cartwheeling and, sometimes, chairing a city council meeting.
“My mother got me addicted to watching it,” Dylan said of the council meetings.
Chelesia Brown, Dylan’s mom, used to listen to the meetings over the phone. Dylan overheard her, and a few days later asked when the next meeting would be.
Now, whether Brown is up for it or not, Dylan asks her to take him to the council meetings after he gets out of school at 3:30 p.m. If he can’t go in person (Dylan had tutoring this past Wednesday and couldn’t attend the committee meeting), he watches them on YouTube.
He estimates he’s watched anywhere from 30 to one trillion meetings. They’re “too long for kids,” he said, but he watches them anyway. Brown said sometimes he even watches the meetings online without her.
“He tells me when they’re arguing, what they’re talking about. I’ll ask him what they’re talking about, and he can kind of tell me what’s going on,” she said.
Dylan prefers to attend meetings in person, and it’s no wonder why. He says that it seems like when he’s at the meetings, the council behaves better because “they think they’re around little kids.”
The city council has historically had trouble getting along with each other, prompting trainings for decorum and most recently action taken by the city’s ethics and accountability board for “misconduct.”
Two weeks ago, two council members were escorted out of the meeting by police, and two others left in protest. Dylan wasn’t at that meeting.
When Dylan is there, sitting with the council president, the meetings seem to go smoother.
“I let him say what I’m going to say,” Mays said. “And he likes pushing the button for the microphone. I can tell.”
Mays doesn’t think Dylan seems scared when he sits up there–just excited.
“I think he’s getting used to it. He’s done it two or three times now,” Mays said.
At the Jan. 10 meeting, Dylan led the council in the pledge of allegiance, called the meeting to order by banging the gavel twice (with Mays’ instruction) and asked to hear from public speakers.
“Madame clerk, first speaker please,” Dylan repeated after Mays.
Dylan said he feels like he’s one of the council members when he’s up there. So far, he’s learned how to start the “roll call” and what a “point of information” is. He’s still trying to figure out what “point of order” is but, well, aren’t we all?
Mays said he thinks it’s great that Dylan is learning about government at an early age.
“It might steer him in a certain career path or at least give him knowledge when he looks at any council meeting around the country, or particularly in your own hometown. It’ll help him understand something,” Mays said.
Last year, Dylan went to a Genesee County Board of Commissioners meeting and spoke to the commissioners about how he didn’t mind wearing masks in school. Last month, he attended a community input session for the American Rescue Plan Act funding.
But Dylan has even bigger plans than going to these meetings.
He said being a councilperson seems hard because “you have to argue a lot,” but one day, he said he’d like to be the mayor or the governor. As an elected official, Dylan said he’d want to do more for the children in Flint.
“I would do like a special event, like a fun day, a day of freedom,” he said. When asked about what a day of freedom would be, he said it would be something for “just kids only” and “just a little bit of adults so they could watch us.”
He also said he would want more parks and places for children to play.
“I don’t have a basketball hoop, I don’t have a football field, or nothing,” Dylan said about his neighborhood.
For now, Dylan is working with his mom to help the children in his community in other ways. He’s collected food items for the Well of Hope food pantries around Flint, and is planning a vaccination event for children on April 9 from 12 – 4 p.m. at the James E. Kennedy Christian Life Center located at 1678 W. Pierson Rd.
“I hope he continues, and I want to continue to give him and others an opportunity to experience that,” Mays said.
Dylan has a while to go before he’s elected to any office, but in the meantime, Mays said the council just might have to make him an “honorary president.”
“I think Dylan might be, I might catch slack, but he might be just as good a chair, or better, than me,” Mays said.