SIDNEY — American Government students at Sidney High School enjoyed a visit from Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst. Invited to speak to the students in all six classes, he spent the day discussing his journey into public service, explaining the day-to-day operations of City Council, offering details on some of the current projects going on within the city, and answering a myriad of questions generated by the students.
“The mayor has always been gracious in accepting our invitations to speak with students, and he always does a fantastic job sharing the ins-and-outs of serving as a city councilmember. I learn something new each time he shares with students,” said teacher James Whitman.
Barhorst began his visit by asking students questions concerning the origins of Shelby County and the city of Sidney. Those that answered questions correctly received a commemorative Sidney bicentennial pin.
In return, the students had several questions for the mayor. They were curious as to why he decided to run for political office. The mayor responded, “My father and grandfather were veterans of the World Wars, and they instilled in me the importance of giving back to the community. Every community needs solid leadership.”
Several students commented on the mayor’s approachability. Montana Stephens stated, “He’s the mayor, but he didn’t act like he was better than us….he was so down-to-earth.”
Emma Hurley shared her thoughts as well, “The mayor had a natural vibe to himself, in class, he acted like he was a friend of the family.”
Andy McClain added, “Mayor Barhorst is full of knowledge. He taught me several new things about Sidney and Shelby County, and you could tell he wanted to be here sharing with us.”
One question came from a student inquiring about the mayor’s hobbies. Barhorst shocked the students with his response, “I have over 750 Civil War books because I enjoy reading and researching history.” The mayor also collects anything related to Sidney’s history.
Another question from the group pertained to what he considered as his greatest achievement. Barhorst responded, “During the drought of 1987, the city came within three days of running out of water. The city had been searching for a more alternate source of water for over 100 years, so helping establish the well field will be tremendously significant for Sidney’s future.”
The students were also interested in how roads were selected for repaving. The mayor explained the rating system conducted each year for every roadway and how each is prioritized by the Sidney Street Department. Whitman added, “With Mayor Barhorst’s educational background, he does an excellent job explaining the responsibilities of city government and the benefits of Sidney being a charter community with home rule.”
Student Cadence Patterson said, “I liked how he taught us like he was a teacher and not just a guest speaker. Most speakers come in and it feels more like a lecture. The mayor made it feel like a normal class period.”
Another student, Chris Hudgins, asked, “What can we do to get the basketball courts restored at Humphrey Park?”
Barhorst said he would investigate the situation and then added, “Do you know why that park is named ‘Humphrey Park?’ It’s named after Sidney’s first black mayor, James Humphrey.”
Hudgins added, “I enjoyed the mayor’s visit because it was great to meet the humble man who helps keeps this city alive.”
The mayor went on to celebrate Sidney’s manufacturing prowess. “Sidney has more manufacturing jobs per capita than any other municipality in the state. More than 5,000 people come to Sidney for work every single day.”
“As an American government teacher, I’ve tried to guide students to an appreciation for all that federal, state, and local, governments provide. Mayor Barhorst sets an excellent example of the dedication necessary to manage the issues closest to our homes,” said Whitman.
Student Kinley LeMaster expressed her positive thoughts regarding the mayor’s visit. “I enjoyed listening to the mayor. I’m happy that someone who is open-minded and wants to help everybody is helping to run our city and keeping us great.”
Barhorst outlined the responsibilities of leading City Council and shared stories about his travels across the state. “It was cool to learn about all the things he does as mayor,” commented student Gage Eilerman-Yingst.
Riya Longwell was particularly surprised to learn the mayor’s salary. She stated, “It was interesting to know how much work he does for so little in return.”
Whitman debriefed with students after the mayor’s visit. “I wanted to help my students process all the information he shared with us. Mayor Barhorst provided us with opportunities to expand what we learn in the curriculum by adding material that directly relates to our students.”
Another student Paige Few commented, “You can tell how much he really cares about Sidney and the people who live here. I’m glad we have someone who can see our points of view and give his time to share with us.”
SHS Principal, Denny Morrison, commented, “I would like to thank the mayor for giving of his time so generously and to remain with our students for the entire day. The practical, hands-on experience they were offered was invaluable.”