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A Political Adventure at our State Capitol

Senior Spends Educational Week in Tallahassee

Christopher+Avallone%2C+%22city+attorney%2C%22+%28left%29+and+other+%22officials%22+at+their+mock+government+offices+in+Tallahassee.+
Christopher Avallone,

Christopher Avallone, "city attorney," (left) and other "officials" at their mock government offices in Tallahassee.

Christopher Avallone, "city attorney," (left) and other "officials" at their mock government offices in Tallahassee.

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As a rising senior, I was awarded the opportunity to participate in Boys State, a leadership, civic and political program for boys heading into their senior year of high school. This one-week, mock government leadership program is sponsored by The American Legion, which was formed in 1919 and is based on the idea proposed by Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. It is guided by four principles: 1. Veterans’ Affairs and Rehabilitation; 2. National Security; 3. Americanism; and 4. Children and Youth. As part of its programs for teens, the American Legion sponsors Boys State in 49 of the 50 states. It has done so since 1935.

Upon being sponsored by Post 133 from Palmetto Bay, I accepted the challenge. I boarded a coach bus on the evening of Saturday, June 17th at the South Miami Post. There were about 25 other kids on the bus with me, from a variety of schools in the Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade. We stopped in North Miami-Dade to pick up another 25 kids before beginning the long journey to Tallahassee.

We arrived in Tallahassee early the next morning, had breakfast and then began the move-in process to our assigned dorm rooms at FSU. I met my roommate, RC, from Palm Beach Gardens, and we set up our room. My roommate and I were assigned to the City of Trooperville in Coast Guard County. As luck would have it, we had also been assigned to opposing political parties. Before lunch, we met our city counselors, wrote a prayer, wrote an Americanism speech, and met the rest of the city members. Then, we elected a Postmaster and a Laundryman. Lunch was fantastic! (The American Legion fed us wonderfully the entire week we were there.) After lunch, Boys State Director Frank Sardinha, III, a Miami attorney, FSU president John Thrasher, and Leon County Commissioner John Dailey welcomed us. Later, we were dismissed for our City Meetings.

During the next ninety minutes, we elected a City Mayor and four Councilmen. Elections continued for the positions of City Clerk, City Attorney, Police Chief, Fire Chief and a Health and Pollution Chief. In keeping with Belen tradition, I ran and was elected the City Attorney. I took my oath of office and proceeded to dinner. Although I was ready to call it a day right after dinner, I had to attend the City Commission meeting so we could begin to enact the ordinances that would govern our city. During our meeting, I advised the Mayor, Commissioners and Chiefs as to what I believed were appropriate ordinances that needed to be enacted before our first official meeting with city members. By 9:30 that evening, we had enacted what we believed were the most important ordinances and were able to meet with city members to plan for the next day. By 10:30 pm, we’d been dismissed and I crawled into bed, exhausted.

Day two began with roll call at 7:00 am, followed by photos and breakfast. After breakfast, we attended a general assembly during which we were briefed by a WFBS news reporter. All Boys State participants then attended a 45-minute lecture on Florida history. Once that was completed, I had to attend the School of Law. After lunch, I took the bar exam so I could be licensed as an attorney. I scored a 94% and passed so that I could maintain my position as City Attorney.

Next, I attended the Federalist Coast Guard County Convention. We nominated delegates for the positions of County Commissioners, Sherriff, County Judge, County Attorney, School Superintendent, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Supervisor of Elections, and Clerk of the Court. I was nominated to run for County Judge. After the County Convention, it was time for the School of Legislative Procedure, followed by a short course on the Executive Branch. At 5:45 pm, we began the Federalist Party Convention in the Ballroom. The first order of business was to elect a Party Chairman and a Party Whip. I was almost elected Party Chairman, but lost in a run-off election. Once elected, the Party Chairman appointed a secretary, timekeeper, parliamentarian, two sergeants-at-arms, a platform committee, and a rally committee.

By 7:30 that evening, we were able to have dinner and relax at an ice cream social. Then, it was back to work – time for county elections. The election for County Judge was close but success eluded me by only three votes. After elections, I attended a short city meeting before heading to bed.

The next few days followed much the same pattern with assemblies, various lectures on legislative procedures and history. Tuesday morning I was nominated to run for the House of Representatives. That afternoon I was elected to the position and had to attend a Legislative Procedure Review and exam in order to serve as a Representative. Tuesday evening we held the Federalist State Party Convention and nominated a candidate for governor and his cabinet members. The rally lasted until late in the evening.

Wednesday morning began with a dodge ball tournament between the cities. That afternoon we had to take a Florida History exam. Late in the afternoon, the legislative counselor administered the Oath of Office and I was sworn in as a Representative. After dinner, the candidates for governor spoke and elections were held. Then the judicial nominating commission met to select two applicants from each county for the positions on the state supreme court. Our elected governor would make the final decision and appoint the justices.

Thursday morning the governor’s inauguration was held at the Capitol. The governor addressed everyone and then announced his selections for the Supreme Court. After the inauguration, I proceeded to the House Chambers for my first legislative session. We had lunch and dinner in the Capitol Courtyard.

Friday we were granted some free time in the afternoon to tour FSU or just relax. That evening we dressed up for dinner and the awards ceremony. We also held our last city meeting and said our good-byes. Late Friday night I packed my bags because I had to be out of the dorm room and on the bus. by 8:00 am Saturday morning.

Looking back, I have to say that for anyone interested in pursuing a political, legal, legislative or military career; Boys State offers a wonderful opportunity. I was able to meet lawyers, judges and politicians from all over the state of Florida. I also met and worked with outstanding kids from all over the state, helped set up a city government as a city attorney, and later helped set up a state government as a Congressman. It was a busy week, not for the shy or slow moving, but what an experience. Anyone interested in participating next year should check www.floridalegion.org/programs-services/boys-state and contact an American Legion post close to their home. Generally, the American Legion Posts select students for Boys State through an application process that emphasizes outstanding academic credentials, community service, and good character. Students selected to attend Boys State are awarded a scholarship that covers transportation, room and board, and the program itself.

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A Political Adventure at our State Capitol