Written by Billy Coleburn (KFS Class of 1986):
A Kenston Forest 7th grader is one of eight statewide winners in the Virginia Municipal League’s annual “If I Were Mayor” essay contest.
Sadie Henshaw, daughter of Heath & Kristin Henshaw of Sutherland, will receive a $150 cash prize and plaque. Her essay was judged by VML as the best in Region 4, which includes Nottoway, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland, Halifax, Charlotte, Amherst, Campbell, Appomattox, and Pittsylvania counties.
Each year, VML invites all Virginia 7th graders to write a 200 to 500-word essay, “If I Were Mayor,” to tell others what they would do as mayor to make their city, town, or county an even better place to live.
Each Fall, Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn visits 7th graders at Nottoway Middle School and Kenston Forest to promote the VML contest and explain the role of Mayor.
Coleburn noted that during his November visit to Kenston, “Sadie asked tough questions and offered great observations. Her essay clearly demonstrates a strong grasp not only of local government in general, but also Blackstone’s challenges and opportunities in particular.”
Sadie, a Headmasters List With Honors (All A’s) 7th grader, is the second Kenston student to win the VML essay contest winner. In 2016, Gracie Coover of Petersburg, now a Kenston 9th grader, was a regional winner.
Sadie and her parents have been invited to attend a future Blackstone Town Council meeting, where Sadie will be formally recognized.
Here’s her essay:
IF I WERE MAYOR
by Sadie Henshaw
As Mayor of the town of Blackstone, I want to focus my efforts on the Main Street Business District. I envision a beautiful downtown with an emphasis to improve traffic safety and provide an attractive area where people want to live and shop.
The first part of my action plan focuses on improving the flow of traffic downtown. I will begin with a request for city council to place restrictions on all commercial truck traffic along Main Street, mostly, between Tavern Street and Nottoway Avenue.
I have witnessed, on a daily basis, pedestrians dodging large trucks. I believe heavy trucks are especially dangerous and discourage people from stopping to shop. My priority will be to detour large trucks to the rear of businesses along Brown Street and to add signage at Maple Street to encourage people to use parking in the rear of businesses and to walk downtown.
The second part of my plan seeks volunteers and sponsors to beautify Main Street. I want to hold a contest where artists submit ideas for decorating local crosswalks to encourage awareness of pedestrians. Artists may also be hired to implement their ideas. Local artists and craftsmen will be commissioned to design and install unique bike racks, build a variety of benches, and to decorate trash cans. In exchange for their help, we can promote their crafts at an annual craft show and community festival.
The third aspect of my plan is intended to provide fresh quality foods and greenery for the community. I want to support a local gardening initiative. I will approach local farmers and ask them to sponsor horticulture classes. In addition, I will call on volunteers to supply materials necessary for raised gardens, including soil compost and fertilizer.
The fruits and vegetables produced in the community garden will supply local restaurants or provide food for the needy. Our community garden will not only add beauty to the downtown, but also bring residents closer together. My plant a tree and flowers initiatives are designed to grab the attention of potential shoppers. Business owners will be supplied with planters outside of their shops to plant trees and flowers.
I believe that the residents of Blackstone should be more informed about meetings, festivals, contests, and other events. A community flyer and bulletin board to notify the people will be placed in the common area. Since the majority of residents acquire their news online, I will encourage a website to be made with town events and other community activities.
As mayor, I will be an effective leader, and I will strive to make a significant and lasting impression on the town. I will seek to implement the ideas I have outlined. I believe that together with City Council Members and volunteers, we can have a beautiful downtown where truck traffic is kept to a minimum, families can enjoy time together, and local business owners can profit.