Student wins ‘If I Were Mayor’ contest

Scott Swanson

For a 10-year-old, Madalyn Coleman has had a lot of exposure to politics, being the youngest daughter of a Sweet Home city councilwoman and former state legislative assistant.

Oh, and her dad’s a local pastor.

But she didn’t really know quite what to expect when she attended the Oregon Mayors Association conference last week in North Bend.

She was aware that she was the elementary-school winner in the organization’s “If I Were Mayor

… ” civic awareness contest, but there was another surprise waiting for her.

Madi, as she is called by her close associates, finished fifth grade this year through Enlightium Academy Home School, and she’s headed to middle school this fall at East Linn Christian Academy.

Her older brother Nate had competed in the Sweet Home competition (“he placed second”), so she was familiar with it when her mother suggested she could enter.

“My mom showed me and I was kind of iffy,” Madi said.

But she decided to go for it.

The contest involves three categories: a poster competition for grades four and five, essays for sixth- through ninth-graders, and a video/digital media competition for high-schoolers, according to the OMA.

The local contest is conducted by mayors, and local first-place winners are entered in the state-level competition in the spring, which is judged by members of the OMA Judging Committee.

Madi said it took about a week and a half to produce her poster.

She listed things she considered local needs, she said.

“I had ‘urgent care’ because we have a lot of car accidents, motorcycle accidents around Sweet Home,” Madi said. Second was miniature golf, “because it’s family fun, and it provides more jobs.”

Next was “a clothing store for kids, because there’s not much right here in Sweet Home.”

Others were “more homes” and a community garden.

“More homes brings in more tax money to the city,” she explained. “And it’s more homes for people.”

Her vision of a community garden, she said, was “you can, like, come and get fruits and vegetables. You can donate fruits and vegetables.”

Madi said she got ideas from conversations she’d heard around the household as she’s grown up.

Her dad, Matt Coleman, said she told officials at the OMA convention that “I do a lot of listening around my house.”

She and her dad said there’s not as much conversation with politics now that her mom, Susan Coleman, is no longer working in Salem, after Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, her boss, stepped down.

But when she did, “she came home and told the family what was going on. We learned a lot,” Matt Coleman said.

“Madi hears everything and she has lots of questions,” Coleman said, adding that her daughter is quiet but isn’t missing much. “She didn’t mention (to the OMA judges) that her mom is a city councilor, but I think that gives her some conversation. She hears some of that. These ideas, I was, like, ‘These are really good.'”

Madi said she was “excited” when she found out she’d won.

“I knew they were going to give it to the state, but I didn’t know I was winning,” she said.

The family got to stay overnight in a hotel when they were invited to the awards brunch on July 31.

When she got there, the awards started with the older winners from the 26 state entries. She didn’t know about the $500 prize for first-place winners until the awards ceremony. Second-place winners got $300 and third-placers got $100, donated by PacifiCorp.

Matt Coleman said when Madi saw the prize money for the older categories, she suddenly realized there was going to be more to this than just a certificate.

“I was kind of excited, of course, but I was, like, ‘What am I gonna do with it all?’ she said of the prize money.

So what’s next?

Sixth grade, for starters.

Madi acknowledged she may be interested in getting involved in public life, like her mother, later on. “I feel I know a lot about that stuff.”