Perrysburg Mayor Nelson Evans listens as Chase Mackiewicz gives him ideas on a right-of-way issue as the mayor visits with fourth graders in Lynn Cherry's class at Woodland Elementary.
D'Angelo Wright did what any 9-year-old does when the mayor is coming to his classroom.
The fourth-grader dressed to the nines, wearing a suit and tie and shiny Sunday shoes.
For D'Angelo's class at Woodland Elementary, Tuesday was a chance to not only meet Perrysburg Mayor Nelson Evans but also to give him suggestions to resolve a spirited issue City Council debated late last month.
Zingo's Mediterranean, a popular restaurant on Louisiana Avenue, sought a special sidewalk lease from the city to put three more tables outside as its business grows. The restaurant's owners, Dave Sperling and Erika DeWood, also wanted to leave the tables and chairs outside during the Thursday farmers market.
Some council members feared other local businesses might follow Zingo's lead and want more outside space, ultimately hurting the farmers market and taking space away from vendors. Others argued the city has no right to stop a burgeoning businesses from expanding, especially since other eateries downtown already have tables outside.
D'Angelo and his classmates jumped right into the discussion.
They read about the Zingo's debate and talked about the pros and cons of giving the sidewalk lease.
Even though they are "little Perrysburg citizens ... they do have a voice," their teacher Lynn Cherry said.
The students wrote letters to city council, offering different solutions.
Lynn Cherry speaks to her Woodland Elementary fourth-graders during Perrysburg Mayor Nelson Evans' visit.
Why couldn't the city close down the street during the farmers market? Why not move vendors closer to the Maumee River so there's more space? Why can't Zingo's and the vendors just talk to each other and figure it out themselves?
"Good ideas," said Mr. Evans, who came to hear from the students during their class. "You guys are thinking. That's good."
He sat, arms folded, in a rocking chair in front of the 28 children, as if he was in the middle of storytime.
D'Angelo raised his hand.
"Too bad vendors can't sell from their cars," he said.
Most of the students' ideas weren't off base either, the mayor said.
The city had considered many of those possibilities, including getting the state's approval to close the street, the mayor said.
In the end, Mr. Evans said he decided to give Zingo's a one-year sidewalk permit, which allows the Middle Eastern restaurant to add more tables and chairs and also keep them outside during the farmers market. The free permit, unlike a $25 annual sidewalk lease, does not require council approval.
"It's like a judge on a case," the mayor said to the students. "You have an issue two people can't agree on. Sometimes, you need to step in and make a decision."
After his one-hour talk, the classroom turned into a frenzy, as if it were Lady Gaga or a celebrity — not the hometown mayor — who was leaving.
The students lined up with notebook papers and pencils, seeking autographs, and peppering Mr. Evans with questions, like did the Perrsyburg mayor live in Perrysburg?
"I couldn't be mayor if I didn't," Mr. Evans said.
Alyssa Hutchins, 9, grinned as she held up the day's hot item in her class: Mr. Evans' signature.
"It's really excited to meet a mayor," she said. "I've never met a mayor before."
Contact Gabrielle Russon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6026.