If he were mayor

Posted Dec 31, 2023 1:00 PM

<b>Photo courtesy Katie Music/City of Burlington</i>
Notre Dame student Mathew Oleson, 12, is handed the proclamation naming him the winner of the “If I Were Mayor” essay contest by Burlington Mayor Jon Billups. Photo courtesy Katie Music/City of Burlington

Notre Dame student wins essay contest.

By William Smith

As a future engineer, 12-year-old Notre Dame student Matthew Oleson is practical to the core.

But he is also a pretty slick writer. Oleson, who professed no real interest in city politics or writing for a living, won the “If I Were Mayor” essay contest organized by the city of Burlington.

Oleson read that essay during the city council meeting Monday night. His speech was scheduled during one of the council’s busier nights in recent memory. 

The intersection of a rental inspection frequency vote, the swearing-in of a new police chief, and the departure of three council members.

The council chambers were packed.

If Oleson felt the pressure, he didn’t show it. He approached the podium, looked down at his essay, and started reading. He didn’t stop until the end, finishing with nary an error or verbal slip.

“Outstanding sir!” mayor Jon Billups said.

The audience behind him erupted into applause. Oleson’s grandmother and Notre Dame teacher provided support from the front row, giving him the confidence to storm the podium.

“It was a very proud moment. I’m very proud of him. He’s a good kid,” said his grandmother, Pat Oleson.

It wasn’t just Oleson’s writing that garnered him the victory. He took the question of “If I Were Mayor”  quite literally, imagining what people would want of him if he were mayor. He thought of problems that needed fixing, and ways Burlington could improve.

From the perspective of a 12-year-old boy who wouldn’t mind seeing a trampoline park in town, of course.

“The potholes by Queso’s and Hobby Lobby are kind of bad,” he said. “I kind of did some research on how people would like to come here. Stuff like that.”

When asked if he would like to become an elected official himself someday, Oleson said, “Not really.”

Matthew Oleson’s Essay

If I were mayor I would want to do things that would benefit the entire community. For a community to grow and prosper, I would have to listen to the needs and wants of all of the people. I would also try to maintain a clean environment. I would do that by encouraging everyone to help pick up trash and not waste as many natural resources. We could do this by either installing more solar panels or using more wind turbines.

When people decide to live in a certain town, they need to see what it has to offer for them and their families. 

There are definitely things that I see a need for in Burlington. I’d like to construct more bike paths and trails for cyclists. It’s a real advantage for people to be able to enjoy the outdoors. I’d also like to make our roads stay in good shape with no potholes.

We need to draw more businesses to our town. If we have good schools and shopping, then more people will want to live in Burlington. 

I would also try to improve and add more attractions like a trampoline park or a bigger water park. I would also add an ice rink, because you have to drive all the way to Iowa City, just to go ice skating in the Coral Ridge Mall. 

I would also try to add more food choices by trying to get more food companies to come into Burlington.

We need to continue to have a great police department to keep our city safe. It all starts with a good leader that will listen to the needs and wants of all the people, and add some things I might want that the people would like as well. If I were mayor I would listen and try hard to be that person that Burlington needs.