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Third Graders Learn Government from Wesley Chesbro

The Assemblyman spoke to a class at the Fitch Mountain campus last week.

Students in Joanna Schrichfield's third-grade class got a chance to meet state Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro face-to-face on Friday, when he visited the school to explain how the legislature works. Chesbro represents the Second Assembly District, which stretches from Bodega Bay to the Oregon border, comprising all of Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties, about half of the city of Santa Rosa and northern and western Sonoma County. He has served in both Houses of the Legislature.

On Friday, he outlined some of his accomplishments for the children. The story that seemed to have the most impact was about how he presented a bill, while in the Senate, that mandated anyone using a lake to make sure their electrical wiring is safe, after the death of a girl who was swimming at Lake Sonoma.

Students "oohed" and "aahed." Later Chesbro told Patch that he uses that story to show children how he can help people close to their age.

Chesbro won his first elected position—to the Arcata city council —at age 22, and later served three terms on the Humbolt County Board of Supervisors.

During his eight-year Senate term, Chesbro authored legislation to maintain funding for rural community clinics, protect natural resources, guarantee individuals with special needs have adequate housing, establish incentives for recycling and ensure rural law enforcement agencies are fully funded, according to his website. His accomplishments in the Assembly include authoring a comprehensive recycling bill, it states.

On Friday it was "crazy hair day" at the Fitch Mountain campus. The combination of an occasional pink ponytail and blue mohawk made memorable photos with the legislator.

While explaining how many votes are needed to pass a bill, Chesbro paused and asked Schrichfield, "Have they learned fractions yet?"

Students raised their hands during question time, drawing from notes on index cards.

"How much money do you make?" one student asked.

Chesbro responded with "$95,000 a year."

"Wow," came a stunned response from one boy.

One child asked what it feels like to be a state Assemblyman.

"Some days are really good and some are bad," Chesbro said. "When the governor vetoes my bill after everyone else has voted for it, that feels really bad. Most days are good."

He said one thing he doesn't like about his job is that he doesn't get enough time to do some things he likes, such as catching salmon.

After the assemblyman outlined his longstanding passion for the environment and recycling, a girl responded that at Fitch Mountain, students recycle paper.

"We have a garden," she said. "We grow tomatoes, squash and lettuce. We're getting more seeds soon."

Some had more personal inquiries. One child wanted to know what Chesbro does to help people with leukemia. "Because my mother has leukemia," she said.

Chesbro discussed President Obama's healthcare policies and said he enjoys how his job enables him to help people who are sick.

"I'm meeting with some people today to talk about disabilities," he told the class. Chesbro has served on the California Mental Health Oversight and Accountability Commission.

The legislator said he values the freedom Americans have.

"In some countries, if you criticize the government, you can get arrested," he said.

He ended his talk by encouraging students to write to him about their concerns, even if they're too young to vote.

Julie Pendray February 25, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Correction: the earlier version of this story stated that Chesbro represents the First District. In fact, redistricting last year means he represents the Second District. Lake county is no longer part of his district. Half of the city of Santa Rosa is now included. We regret the error.

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