LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ - Chatham High juniors Gavin Mayes and Tim Higgins experienced first-hand how municipal and state government is run during the American Legion's 73rd New Jersey Boys State program held last month.
At seven in the morning on Sunday, June 18, Mayes and Higgins departed for the American Legion’s New Jersey Boys State program held at Rider University, which is designed to give high school juniors a better knowledge of the different types of municipal governments in New Jersey, as well as how the government runs on the state level.
Upon arriving, each participant, or Statesman, is assigned a town and county. Mayes was assigned Monroe City in Nimitz County and Higgins was assigned Tyler City in Ridgeway County. Each city contained about 52 Statesmen and each county consisted of two cities. In addition to being assigned a city and county, every Statesman was assigned one of two fictitious political parties: either the Federalists or the Nationalists.
Mayes was assigned to the Nationalist party and Higgins was assigned to the Federalist party. Throughout the week, each city and county is tasked with fixing the problems assigned to them. Furthermore, each political party had to develop their beliefs and stances throughout the week on various topics, ranging from issues in the towns up to national issues America is facing today. Some of the local issues included unemployment, infrastructure development, funding education, demolishing a nuclear power plant, and many more.
Statesmen were also encouraged to run for public office, ranging from local mayor to Governor and National Senator. Higgins ran for councilman on the first day and won that position. His duties entailed making a comprehensive city manual with the aid of the mayor and other council members.
On the second day, he ran for the state senate and won. In this election, Higgins was elected by the entire county. His duties as a state senator included making and presenting bills, as well as debating bills proposed by the opposition party.
Mayes started out a bit rocky, however. On the first day, he ran for the office of mayor, but lost in the primaries to another Statesman in his town and party. On the second day, he ran for the State Senate, but again he lost in the primaries. His break came when he was nominated by his town party to run for the State Party Chairmanship. Mayes had to give a speech in front of the entire Nationalist Party, consisting of over 4509 Statesmen. He won the Chairmanship and was then tasked with running the Nationalist Gubernatorial Candidate’s campaign.
Unfortunately, the Nationalist’s candidate for governor lost his campaign to the Federalist candidate. Despite this, Mayes ran for Boys Nation Senator, acquiring all 55 signatures for the petition. Only three other Statesmen acquired the necessary amount of signatures. Once again, Mayes found himself in front of the entire Nationalist party, but unfortunately lost in the primaries to two other candidates.
If Mayes had won, he would have then moved on to the general election and would then have to give a speech in front of every Statesman attending the program. The two Statesmen who are elected for Boys Nation Senator are sent down to Washington, D.C. for one week where they model the National Senate and run for President. Only two boys per state may attend Boys Nation.