ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council may soon be taking advice from teenagers.
At a meeting last month, the council passed a resolution creating a five-person youth advisory committee. Three students will be from Coral Shores High School and two from the private Island Christian School.
Each school is responsible for selecting its own representatives and the youth council should be seated by next semester, according to village officials. Only students who live in the village are eligible to serve.
Councilman Ken Philipson said he presented the idea after learning about such advisory committees at a Florida League of Cities conference, where politicians from throughout the state meet and network.
He said he was further encouraged to set up a youth council after he attended his granddaughter's college graduation party and learned some of her friends had few job prospects.
"There are always opportunities in the government sector," Philipson said. "We need to educate the youth about how government jobs work."
The youth council will report to the village's Parks and Recreation Director John Sutter as well as the Village Council.
"Most of what the youth is concerned about usually has something to do with parks," Philipson explained.
Village Manager Ed Koconis told the Free Press said he expected to have little involvement with the new group but would occasionally attend meetings. Depending on the group's agenda items, Koconis said he may also recommend legal counsel to attend.
Since the youth council was created by the Village Council, it will be bound by state's open-meeting laws. The law prohibits members from privately discussing matters that could come before them for a vote.
"They will have to understand the frustrations of working under the Sunshine Law," Philipson said.
The formation of the youth council is not expected to have any significant financial impact.
"There shouldn't be any additional costs," Philipson said, noting the committee will have no budget.
The committee will be the only one of its kind in the Florida Keys, though youth councils are not uncommon in South Florida.
Homestead City Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough serves as a liaison to her town's youth council, which is given an annual budget of about $10,000.
"They basically just do a lot of volunteering in the community," she said.
Fairclough said the 15-member council's expenditures are usually tied to out-of-town conferences or trips to Washington, D.C. In addition to meeting once per month, the Homestead group also socializes with similar councils in South Florida.
Fairclough said she is hopeful the Islamorada group will come up to the mainland to participate in these larger gathering. She added that the experience the participants get is important to their future.
"The purpose of the council is to create leaders," she said.