Mason city council race hits close to home for three MHS students

Allie Keim | The Chronicle

Mason High School senior Becca Sanders and her mother Gina Sanders, a Mason City Council candidate, stand together behind a Sanders campaign sign in the family’s yard.

Taylor Murray | The Chronicle

Political pins and parades are becoming a staple of the lives of several MHS students.

On November 7th, Mason adults will gather to vote on numerous issues and public offices, including their preferred Mason City Council candidates for three open seats. Out of Tony Bradburn (incumbent), Josh Styrcula (incumbent), Joy Bennett, Scott Gibson and Gina Sanders, the latter three are parents to a current Mason High School (MHS) student.

Senior Becca Sanders has been supporting her mom throughout this months-long process. Between giving pins to her friends and spreading the word about the campaign, Sanders said she is very proud of her mom and happy to help in any way she can.

“It’s really cool to see the way that she’s getting involved in the community,” Becca Sanders said. “It motivates me to see both of my parents up and around.” 

Coming from a service and non-profit background, city council candidate Gina Sanders hopes to incorporate a strong line of communication into her campaign. Sanders acknowledged the accomplishments that have been made in the community and will work to maintain Mason’s values. Sanders said that stepping into this role as a mother means she will have to sacrifice some of her time at home with her family.

Becca Sanders understands what it takes for her mom to get elected and uphold her position. She said that her mom’s tenacity and work ethic are inspiring her to be more self-sufficient.

“I think [the campaign] is making me a more independent person,” Becca Sanders said. “Her action motivates me to work a little bit harder. Also, I’m a senior and both of my parents are really busy doing important things now, so it’s pushing me to be more independent.”

Gina Sanders said that she is thankful for the opportunity to teach her kids more about local government and have thoughtful family conversations about her daily experiences.

Mason City Council candidate Joy Bennett and her son Luke Bennett, a MHS sophomore, stand next to a Bennett campaign sign on the side of Mason-Montgomery road.

“If anything, we’ve just been having more conversations about what it looks like to run for local office,” Gina Sanders said. “It’s a vulnerable place for us as a family – not just for me – to have my face and my name out all over the community. It doesn’t seem to have affected my kids negatively. If anything, I think they’re learning a lot.”

City council candidate Joy Bennett has two MHS students, Nishka Mishra and Laasya Acharya, on her campaign staff working as a manager and an intern, respectively. She said her campaign has enabled her to have family conversations about taxes and where that money goes locally, especially with her youngest son, MHS sophomore Luke Bennett.

Joy Bennett is running for public office for a third time, so her children have grown to accept seeing her signs around town. Her two sons recently joined her in the 2023 Heritage Day Parade holding campaign banners. Bennett said that being able to share the campaign process with her children helps her to gain another perspective on local issues.

“Having kids who are teens and young adults helps me to have a sense of how young people are thinking about politics and the things that are important to [younger generations],” Bennett said.

Bennett’s busy schedule due to her running requires compromises in her personal life, like spending less time at home.

“The logistics of getting everyone where they need to go are a little more complicated because I’m out so much, whether I’m meeting with people or knocking on doors or at events,” Bennett said. “I’m home less to have those regular family life conversations about how everybody’s doing and what’s going on.” 

Senior Crew Gibson, son of candidate Scott Gibson, has been involved with family events to raise campaign funds. Crew said that his experience watching his dad run for office has opened up his eyes to the intricacies of the political process.

“I didn’t realize how much marketing and fundraising went into [an election],” Gibson said.

Crew Gibson understands that he and his family are very visible in the community because of his dad’s candidacy, and wants to help create a positive image for the campaign.

Mason High School senior Crew Gibson and his father Scott Gibson, who is a candidate in the Mason City Council election on November 7.

“I am definitely on my best behavior because we’re more looked at more than if he wasn’t running for city council,” Gibson said.

Becca Sanders turned 18 over the summer, and will have a unique first election as an eligible voter with her mom on the ballot. Sanders said that the situation has given her a more in depth understanding of politics as a young citizen.

“It’s definitely a weird introduction into politics,” Becca Sanders said. “It’s a lot more of a personal matter and I’m participating in discussions and community events more often than I would have otherwise.”

Local elections are not as prominent as larger state and national elections, especially to younger voters, but the race has a clear direct impact on the remainder of Sanders’ time at home in high school.

“Typically, a city council vote has minor effects on an 18 year old,” Becca Sanders said. “This year’s results would change my day-to-day in a big way.”

Gina Sanders recognizes that her family is getting additional publicity that they cannot control, and appreciates that her kids want to aid her when they can. Sanders is grateful to her kids for supporting her dream of being on the city council and helping others.

“It’s maybe a bit more spotlight and attention than [my kids] would prefer,” Gina Sanders said. “But I feel like they’ve been really supportive. I think they understand my heart, passion and why it’s important to engage in your local community.”