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Mayor juggles city duties and college applications.

Gym class, homework and approving policies are all in a day's work for the new mayor of Hillsdale, Mich.

In fact, 18-year-old Michael Sessions, the youngest mayor in the United States, starts his day off much like a typical high school senior.

"I get up at 7:15, go to [Hillsdale High School] at 7:40, have gym class for an hour and a half, go to Spanish class, lunch and accounting and then I go to [Davis Middle School] to get on the computer," he explained. "My school day ends at 2:30."

It's Sessions' extracurricular activity that sets him apart from the rest. After beating out incumbent Doug Ingles in the November 2005 election, despite his status as a write-in candidate. Sessions' afternoons are filled with meetings and making policies for the city.

But, with school and mayoral duties, it's a wonder how Sessions found the time to fill out a college application to study political science at Hillsdale College or will find the time to fill them out for Albion College and Adrian College, which are both within 45 minutes of Hillsdale.

Fortunately, Sessions is able to exercise his mayorship mainly on a part-time basis since the city of more than 8,000 people is run under a city manager form of government. This means City Manager Tun Vagle is responsible for the administration and financial security of all city departments.

As Sessions' right hand man, Vagle meets with him every day right after school at City Hall.

"He updates me on what's going on in the city," Sessions explained. "He runs Hillsdale's day-to-day operations. As mayor, I'm the chief policymaker."

In addition to Sessions' daily city updates, he meets with Hillsdale's nine-member city council the first and third Monday of each month in the City Council Chambers. And since the job package didn't include an office, when it's time for him to do paperwork, he "'works out of the house."

Sessions has found that the job of an elected official never ends, however. When most teens are catching up with friends on the weekends, he's got work to do.

"On the weekend, I type up letters," he said. "I'm also on call 24 hours a day because I'm sometimes needed to go out and do stuff."

Some of the "stuff" that Sessions has done has included appearances on "The Today Show" and on "The Late Show with David Letterman." It even featured a brief visit to NLC's Congress of Cities and Exposition this past December in Charlotte, N.C.

During his visit, Sessions spoke at the Youth Delegates Orientation, a session that provided youth delegates with information on how to get the most out of their conference experience.

The biggest point that Sessions wanted the youth delegates to take home with them was that it's important for them to get involved in their communities since "our generation is the future."

Sessions' way of getting involved was to "add more energy to the city" by running for mayor of Hillsdale. In turn, he has inspired youth from Japan to South Africa to fight in his own backyard to step up and make a difference.

"Ever since I ran, I've seen an interest in my school," he said. "I had a best friend of mine come up to me who wants to start a youth in community organization. Basically, what they would do is go out week to week fixing the city up, cleaning the downtown area."

But while running, Sessions ran into a problem that he'll strive to fix. He found that many people in Hillsdale aren't registered to vote.

"Voting is the single most important right we have as citizens of the United States," he said. "One of the things I want to see done in the following months in my community is a campaign to register people to vote."

Following his speech, NLC President James Hunt, councilmember in Clarksburg, W.Va., gave an impromptu speech praising Sessions of his determination to make a name for the City of Hillsdale and to let Sessions know how much of a role model he has become.

"You're a symbolic leader in this country," Hunt said to him. "You're a symbol for these young people. What you're going to share with them and continue to share with them is going to go on to help them."

Hunt also offered Sessions some advice about being an elected official. He suggested that Sessions determine how much authority he has and learn what his limits are.

The young mayor also appreciated the advice that Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory gave him about being in the spotlight during a chat in McCrory's office.

"He basically talked to me about how I should carry myself," Sessions said. "He was giving me advice about how I should be aware of every move I make."

With this advice, as well as the advice that he gets almost daily from elected officials to random people on the street, Sessions has determined his main goals during his reign as mayor.

"I want [youth] to get involved so they know what's going on around them and I want to represent [the people of Hillsdale] as best as possible," he said.

His long-term political future, on the other hand, isn't quite so clear. Sessions, who can be elected for two consecutive four-year terms as mayor of Hillsdale, isn't looking too far beyond his mayorship.

"Right now I'll just stick to focusing on my city," he said.
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Title Annotation:18-year-old Michael Sessions, new mayor of Hillsdale
Author:Duvall, Cherie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Jan 23, 2006
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