Boy, 9, serves as Park Ridge’s ‘acting mayor’
Tom Cavanaugh, 9, of Park Ridge, gets a lesson in local government from Mayor David Schmidt while Deputy City Clerk Cheryl Peterson looks on during a Feb. 4 City Council meeting. | Jennifer Johnson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 10, 2013 9:01PM
PARK RIDGE — Nine-year-old Tom Cavanaugh has dreams of someday making it big on the political scene.
But first, he required some practice at Park Ridge City Hall.
Cavanaugh, dressed in a smart dark suit and lavender tie, took the mayor’s seat to call to order the Feb. 4 Park Ridge City Council meeting and lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. He then assisted Mayor David Schmidt by handing out proclamations to several recognized citizens and groups.
Schmidt referred to Cavanaugh as the night’s “acting mayor,” inviting the Roosevelt School student to participate in the meeting after Cavanaugh incorporated the mayor into a school project.
For a weekly writing assignment in his fourth-grade class, Cavanaugh’s teacher, Nicole Azark, asked students to write a paragraph about an event related to Super Bowl Sunday. After a brainstorming session with his father, Joe, Tom Cavanaugh spun a fictional story about an upcoming Park Ridge pizza contest with local pizzerias judged by Cavanaugh himself, Azark, Roosevelt Principal Kevin Dwyer, Assistant Principal Andy Petroline and Mayor Schmidt.
Joe Cavanaugh then e-mailed a copy of the story to Schmidt at his son’s request.
“He emailed me back and he said, ‘I want an autographed copy,’” Tom Cavanaugh recounted.
Then came the invitation to step into the role of “acting mayor” at a City Council meeting.
“He thinks he wants to be mayor someday, so I figured I’d give him a little shot of what it’s like,” Schmidt said.
“It was fun,” Cavanaugh said, acknowledging that he was nervous at first, but felt more comfortable once he spoke with the mayor and was shown what to do.
Cavanaugh says he would like to have a career in politics, with a goal of being elected mayor or even running for president of the United States.
“He’s always had an appetite for politics and an eye on people who lead,” Joe Cavanaugh said of his son. “He likes that arena. He feels comfortable with it.”
“It’s a good lesson for him to see firsthand how a democracy works,” Tom’s mother, Kyra Cavanaugh, shared. “We talk about current events and politics a lot at home and it’s good for him to see at a local level how it works.”
So what does the city’s youngest acting mayor have to say about Park Ridge?
“I think it’s a good place to live,” Tom Cavanaugh said. “I think it’s important to protect our city and give kids a good education.”
The words of a future leader, perhaps.~.