Third grader’s letter prompts mayoral visit to Westgate Elementary

Student letter-writer Chloe Byun stands with teacher Lisa Hamilton and Mayor Earling.

Chloe Byun is very concerned third grader.

Her big concern? Pollution.

So when her teacher Lisa Hamilton began a new unit on how to influence others through writing, Chloe decided to write to Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, express her concerns, and influence him to take action on pollution.

“Dear Mayor of Edmonds,” she began. “Would you rather be very sick, or would you rather be healthy?  I would want you to be healthy after taking such a hard job. So you need to stop the pollution harming our world.”

She went on to cite examples including the great London smog of 1952, and the day, Aug. 22, 2018, when Seattle’s air was “more polluted than Beijing.” She finally challenged him with, “I mean, do you want to face any of these consequences? I bet you would want to be as healthy as possible. So are you wanting to save our world?”

Mayor Dave Earling speak with Lisa Hamilton’s third grade class at Westgate Elementary.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Mayor Earling made a special visit to Chloe’s classroom on Thursday to answer her questions directly and entertain additional questions from her classmates.

“I am so glad you wrote to me,” Earling began. “This is how our democracy works. Hearing from you and others helps to influence me and others who work in government, and makes us aware of problems and how they affect the people we work for. And, you know who we work for, right? That’s you! You should never be afraid to write or speak up.”

Earling then gave some examples of actions the city is taking to help reduce pollution, including running all police vehicles on propane, and replacing older gasoline-fueled city fleet vehicles with electric and hybrid models. He also told the students about the city’s efforts to reduce plastics use by banning single-use bags, the current work toward phasing out single-use plastic straws and food containers and replacing them with compostable alternatives, and the city’s success in reducing its electricity use.

It’s not often that a class full of third-graders gets the chance to interact one-on-one with the mayor, and the ensuing question-and-answer session was wide-ranging. Questions included, “Do you run the police department?” “Do you have any pets?” “How old do you have to be to be mayor?” and “Is it hard being mayor?”

Earling answered each in turn, sharing with the class the personal satisfaction he derives from meeting the day-to-day challenges of governing the city, and the particular joy he takes in seeing long-term projects completed successfully.

“One of these is the spray pad in City Park,” he said — and was met with a roomful of blank stares. Then teacher Lisa Hamilton chimed in, “that’s the one with the big bucket,” drawing squeals of joy and recognition from the class.

Mayor Earling pauses for a group photo with the Westgate Elementary third graders. They are joined by teacher Lisa Hamilton (left) and Principal Jennifer Braile.

In conclusion, Earling referred back to Chloe’s letter, reiterating how important it is for citizens to bring up issues, talk about them, and actually take action to make things better.

“And Chloe, I can tell from your letter that you’re someone who’s not afraid to take this kind of action,” he said. “Do you know how I know that? It was when you wrote about the time you were in the car with your mom, and she left the car running while she was parked. You were so concerned about the unnecessary air pollution this would cause, that you whined until she turned it off. Good for you!”

Read Chloe’s full letter here.

Story and photos by Larry Vogel

2 Replies to “Third grader’s letter prompts mayoral visit to Westgate Elementary”

  1. Wonderful story. Bravos to Chloe for her letter, to the Mayor for his response, and to teacher Lisa Hamilton for creating a learning environment where such an exchange could take place. . The story reminds me of my own remarkable third grade experience. I was in PS 118 Elementary School in New York City. In 1948 the School was one classroom short of the rooms they needed. Our second grade teacher suggested to the principal that she could take 10 of her best students from her previous years second grade class (of which I was one) and mix them with a full class of second graders. They way it worked was that at the beginning of the day (and the beginning of the week on Mondays) she would come to the back of the classroom where we were sitting and give us our assignments for the day (and week). It was up to us to work as a group to teach ourselves. She was available at certain times during the day to act as a resource for us, but she spent most of her time teaching the second graders. It was a wonderful year, in many ways the best of my entire school time.

    Both the Mayor and I grew up in a time when much more was expected of young people. There were no “seniors” and no “teenagers”. It’s not that there were no old people or no young people ages 13-19. Of course there were. But the words “senior” and “teenager” were not commonly used in the context they are today. I was held to an adult standard from age 10-11 and was considered a “young adult”. I strongly believe that we do our young people a disservice by not expecting more of them. They really are capable of a great deal and we should not be surprised by their insights and ability to articulate interesting perspectives on important issues.


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