"How did you get to be mayor?” View Ridge Middle School’s seventh graders got the answer to that question and many more when Mayor Jennifer Lindsay came to speak to their Washington State history classes.
Lindsay was glad to share how she became the second female mayor in Ridgefield history. She and her family moved here from Bonney Lake, Washington thirteen years ago and fell in love immediately with the small-town feel. To get involved with her children’s schools, Lindsay joined the Union Ridge Elementary PTO, where she served as president for two years. But as the city grew, Lindsay realized there was another way she could help the community: by volunteering for a role in city government.
She was first appointed to the Planning Commission where she served for four years. Then Lindsay won a position on City Council and served for two years. City Council members elected her mayor one year ago. Lindsay said the thing she values most about being mayor is helping create positive change for the city as it continues to grow.
The mayor gave the students a quick overview of Ridgefield history, which began over a thousand years ago when the Chinook tribe lived here. Developed as a settlement in the 1850s, the town was first known as Union Ridge, then changed its name to Ridgefield in 1890. In 1909, Ridgefield incorporated into a city, with a mayor/council form of government. But as the city grew, it required dedicated staff, and they switched to a council/manager form of government in 1999, a structure still in place today.
Lindsay’s role as mayor includes setting City Council agendas and leading their meetings, including recognizing speakers for public comments. “And that part of the meeting,” she told the students, “is where you can tell us what you think. The floor is always open to you at any age, and you can speak for three minutes on any topic.”
To drive the point home, Lindsay told the students about a group of teens who came to a City Council meeting to talk about the skate park. They had suggestions for improvements to the current skate park and ideas for a new one. “It was great that they came,” Lindsay said, “because none of us on City Council ride skateboards! And now we have information from people who do, which will be a big help as we plan to buy new equipment or find funding for a new skate park.” She encouraged students to get involved in local government, because they are future voters who can influence decisions for the city of Ridgefield, no matter what their age.
When the students had the chance to ask Mayor Lindsay questions, they did not hold back. “What are you most afraid of?” one student asked. Interestingly, Lindsay said, it was public speaking. She had to get over the fear and learn to be better at it.
“How many meetings do you attend a month?” another student asked. Lindsay counted through a list that included meetings with City Council, the city manager, and other organizations—and answered that it’s about a dozen regularly scheduled meetings, in addition to other duties.
Then Lindsay asked a question of her own. “What do you think the requirements are to be on City Council?” There were many guesses: be at least 25 years old, have a college degree, have prior political experience, and have a clean criminal record. But in the end, students were surprised that there were only three requirements: be over 18, be a resident in the city of Ridgefield for at least one year, and be a registered voter.
“That’s it!” Lindsay said. “So it’s important that when you vote, you really do the research and learn about the people you’re electing. Your vote will affect the roads you drive on, the schools you go to, and everything else about the community you live in.” She reminded students that they could have their voices heard by attending City Council meetings at the Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center (RACC) on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 6:30 p.m.
As mayor, Lindsay realizes her decisions have an impact on the community, not just now, but for generations to come. And she hopes that at future City Council meetings, she will be hearing from some of these students, using their voices to help change Ridgefield for the better.