We connect students

The Wire

We connect students

The Wire

We connect students

The Wire

Chester Town Supervisor And Board Member Meet With Students

Chester Town Supervisor Brandon Holdridge and board member Larry Dysinger speak to high school students at a town hall meeting in April.

Chester Town Supervisor Brandon Holdridge and Councilman Larry Dysinger spoke to Monroe-Woodbury High School students in a town hall meeting on April 17. Organized by the school’s Youth in Government club, this town hall served as a forum for students to learn about local government and ask questions about the issues that affect them on a daily basis.

Holdridge, a graduate from the district in 2015, explained his more traditional path to politics. “In college, I majored in poli sci [political science] and minored in economics and history,” Holdridge explained. “I was on the path for a position in politics, whether it be a staffer or a politician.”

Throughout the town hall the two placed the largest emphasis on the importance of bipartisanship, specifically on the local level. Students were surprised to learn that Holdridge and Dysinger ran together on the Democratic line this past election cycle, despite the latter being a Republican.

Both explained that local politics are very different from the state and federal politics we see on the news. Because the system is more focused on a small constituency, there is more room for common ground and cooperation.

“Our responsibility is to keep the town going,” Dysinger explained to a student. Holdridge later added that they administer town departments, comparing it to the federal bureaucratic system students are familiar with from their government classes.

Dysinger and Holdridge were able to explain the importance of voting at the local level as well.

“In 2019, the town supervisor race was won by seven votes,” Holdridge explained. “In my council race in 2021, I only won by thirty-one votes.”

This was part of a larger discussion about student engagement and the need to increase voter turnout at the local level.

After working for several state legislators and a term as a councilman in Chester, he won his Supervisor election this past November. Dysinger, on the other hand, entered the world of public service on a different path. His background is in construction, and he only recently entered the sphere of Orange County politics, serving on the Chester Planning Board before winning his election for town council in November.

The town hall fostered important dialogue between students and local elected officials. Students were able to learn the role their local government plays in their everyday lives, a subject that is not covered as much in government course curriculum.

“I normally wouldn’t expect to have much interest in meetings or events like that, but I did find it pretty interesting and informative,” said Brennan Ortiz, a senior, “I really appreciated the cookies and having people answer questions other students had about our town.”

As the conversation progressed, students in the audience became interested in the improvements Dysinger and Holdridge have implemented and are planning to implement in the future.

“We expanded our regular board meetings [to allow] public comments both at the beginning of the meeting and the end,” said Dysinger. “We value people’s comments.”

Holdridge later outlined his plan to reform the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system within Chester, to make costs more affordable for Chester residents.

“That is what I am going to be staking my legacy on as a representative,” he told students.

Part of the engagement students felt during this town hall came from both the speakers’ commitment to honesty. With questions spanning from “Do you like wearing a suit every day” to “What is the hardest part about being in politics,” they were able to have constructive dialogue and lighthearted conversations. Holdridge did not shy away from a student’s question asking him about abortion, explaining and supporting his stance in favor of abortion rights. Similarly, Dysinger outlined his opposition to abortion rights, bringing the conversation again back to compromise. This honesty created an environment where students felt comfortable to voice their concerns and ask for clarification.

“It’s great to have officials like them come and talk with kids,” said Mr. Verboys, advisor of Youth in Government.

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About the Contributor
Diya Sethi
Diya Sethi, Social Media Manager
Diya Sethi is a senior at Monroe-Woodbury High School. She joined the publication after returning from her semester in Washington, D.C., because she believes in writing about the issues she cares about. Diya enjoys working in local politics, reading, and, most importantly, listening to Taylor Swift.