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SALT LAKE CITY — If you had a day in the mayor's office of your city to do whatever you want, what would you change?
The Utah-based voting outreach group Voterise wants to know what young Utahns would do in that situation. The group's "If I Ran The City" social media contest starts Wednesday and will ask Utahns ages 16-29 to post a video on social media that explains what their top issue would be if they were their city's mayor.
Voterise wants to encourage younger potential voters to get involved with their cities and find out what it takes to run them. The group is partnering with 23 Utah cities in 11 counties to offer contest winners a chance to shadow an elected official in their city, said Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, executive director of Voterise.
"They're over the moon about this program because there's definitely a need that we're trying to meet here," Zitting-Goeckeritz said during a press conference Tuesday.
The contest runs through Oct. 22 — the deadline to register to vote in fall municipal elections in Utah. The top prize for the contest is $1,000 cash. Second- and third-prize winners will get $750 and $500, respectively. The top three winners may also have the opportunity to shadow the mayor or a councilperson in their town, according to Voterise.
Only 1 in 5 voters participates in municipal elections, according to Zitting-Goeckeritz. But those elections are some of the most important and impactful, she added.
"Decisions made by our local officials have a massive impact on our lives and our communities," Zitting-Goeckeritz said.
Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter said she had recently spoken with some Cub Scouts in her city who had tons of questions about the city. "It was so fun to see their excitement about what goes on in city government," Potter said.
The "If I Ran The City" project will be a fun way for youth to get involved and say what they would do differently, she added.
"We're really looking forward to hoping that some of our residents participate," she said.
West Jordan Mayor Dirk Burton pointed out that even though issues and problems are at the forefront of peoples' minds, those typically don't show up on the ballot. You don't vote to patch potholes or fix streets, you vote for candidates, he said.
"When it's not election time, those are forefront in their minds," he said. "Those decisions are made daily."
Getting young people involved in their cities at an early age is critical for them to understand what goes on in their city's government, said Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer.
"I love this idea of getting people engaged early and getting this practice forward when you're young," Fullmer said. "It really helps people think about what they want to see in their community."
People interested in participating in "If I Ran The City" should upload a 60-90 second video on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook in which they identify themselves and explain the issue they'd change. More information is available at voterise.org/ifiranthecity.