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Torrance County 4-H Council officers sworn in with other county elected officials

ESTANCIA, N.M. - As the New Year begins, across the nation from Congress to local counties, elected officials participate in swearing in ceremonies. In Torrance County, New Mexico, the ceremony includes the youngest group of elected officials: the 4-H Council.

Youth shaking hands with a judge
Cooper Autrey, Torrance County 4-H Council treasurer, is congratulated by District Judge Kevin Sweazea after the formal swearing in ceremony. The 4-H Council officers were sworn into office with the newly elected county officials. Miles Cherry and the other 4-H Council officers wait their turn to receive Judge Sweazea's congratulations. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

"It's a tradition in the county to have the 4-H Council officers sworn in along with the county officials," said Gene Winn, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent for the county. "This is the only county in the state that includes the youth in their ceremony. It gives our youth an opportunity to realize they are a representative of their county."

The 4-H Council is the governing body of the county's program. The council is comprised of the eight elected officers and delegates from each club. This group determines what county-wide activities will be done during the year, including fundraising, and decides how the council's funds are spent.

Judge Edmund "Ted" Kase of the Seventh Judicial District, who has been a district judge for 41 years, said the annual event has been held for 25 years. Bill Neish, former Torrance County Extension agricultural agent, and former United States Magistrate Judge Leslie C. Smith developed the concept of having the joint ceremony.

"Because this area is a farming and ranching community, 4-H is an important part of Torrance County," Kase said. "We want our youth to know they are a vital part of our community. Speaking for the judges, we rarely see any 4-H members in our Children's Court because they have good goals, are motivated, and have good family support."

The swearing in ceremony gives the 4-H youth the opportunity to meet their county's public officials.

"It is a nice tradition that we have where the 4-H youth have the opportunity to be exposed to all of our public officials," said Judge Kevin Sweazea of the Seventh Judicial District. "It gives us the opportunity to showcase the future leaders that our 4-H kids are, along with presenting our current leaders to our community."

The 2013 Torrance County Council members are Miles Cherry, president; Jacob Teaney, vice president; Jean Shelly Massey, secretary; Cooper Autrey, treasurer; Hayley Cook, reporter; Anne Everett, historian; Katherine Arnold, parliamentarian; and Aubrey Lucero, song and recreation leader.

As each office and newly elected officer is announced, the youths step forward and place their left hands on a Bible and raise their right hands. Judge Sweazea leads them in their pledge of service as they declare that they solemnly swear to support the constitution and laws of the nation and the state of New Mexico, along with promising to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of their new office to the best of their abilities.

"I think because of this ceremony, the youth realize what a serious job it is that they have been elected to do," said New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, the guest speaker at this year's event. "I still remember some of the lessons I learned through 4-H while growing up on a ranch north of here in Stanley."

King gave the youth some advice as he spoke to the 4-H Council members, county officials and audience during the ceremony.

"It's not all glitz and glamour being an elected official. It's a lot of work," he said. "The oaths we gave you today, you really have to take to heart. Because there are some days when supporting the constitution and the laws, including your 4-H by-laws, will not make you popular with the people who elected you."

King concluded that what will make the 4-H officers and elected officials popular is that the people will learn to "count on you to have integrity and honesty, and work hard to carry out the duties that they have elected you to do. If you do that, and work hard at it every day, people will gain a respect of you as a leader."