Belarus students learn about election process

By: Stephanie Yoder

These Belarus students listen to a presentation given to them by Washington County residents about the United States election process on Monday July 7.

On Monday, July 7, 20 students from Belarus gathered in the Kalona Chamber Building to learn about the United States' election process and city government systems. The students from Belarus are staying with families in the Kalona area during July through a student exchange program. While at the Chamber building, the students listened to local candidates running for positions as elected officials, like Wesley Rich.

Rich spoke to the students about what it meant to be an elected official and the duties it entailed. He explained the principles of the United States' Republican and Democrat parties and what each side stands for. Rich also shared his personal experiences while running for an elected position.

"To be an elected official you have to have a strong desire to serve your community," Rich said.

Rich is currently running for the District 2 County Supervisor position. As a County Supervisor, Rich explained to the students, his duties would include levying taxes, overseeing county bridge and road construction, approving budget requirements, acquiring and selling public land and responding to the concerns individuals bring to the county.

County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar spoke to the Belarus students about his duties as a local law enforcer. Dunbar explained that his position as County Sheriff is an elected position. This November, like Rich, Dunbar's position will be in the hands of the voters.

One of the most driving questions from the Belarus students was the amount of crime that occurs in a small town, like Kalona. Dunbar explained that while cities do have more crime, they also have many more people in one area.

"More people equals more crime and less people equals less crime," Dunbar said. "Still, I like to think this county has less crime than normal crime rate statistics. Just about everyone in town knows each other."

The final speaker of the afternoon was Congresswoman candidate, Mariannette Miller-Meeks. She shared her experiences of growing up in a poverty-stricken family, and how she used her determination to finish college, become a doctor, and now, run for Iowa Congress.

Miller-Meeks shared how she campaigns and what it takes to gains voters. Some of the biggest issues Miller-Meeks would like to change are the health care and social security systems.

If she wins, Miller-Meeks will be the first ever-female Iowa Congress member. While she has accomplished many great things, Miller-Meeks shared about some of the hardships of being a female doctor and candidate for Congress. Fortunately, Miller-Meeks doesn't let the opinions of others bring down her success.

"I love what I do, my children, patients and husband inspire me to be a better person," Miller-Meeks said. "I want to make a better life for myself and children."

Miller-Meeks' incredible story of determination was an inspiration to all of her listeners.

The 20 Belarus students were very eager to hear from all the speakers and walked away more knowledgeable about the United States political system. They will be in the Kalona area for the rest of July and hope to have many more great experiences while here.