Columbus City Hall took on a decidedly younger feel this summer because of the interns who worked there.
Lucas Phillips gained experience in the Community Development office. Robert Coatsworth crunched numbers about sidewalks in the engineering department. Andrew Wang compiled data with City Attorney Kelly Benjamin.
All three unpaid Columbus residents have left to return to school.
But city officials said the interns’ contributions have and will prove valuable in the present and future of Columbus city government.
Phillips, who came to Community Development in the middle of May, took a break from his studies at Valparaiso University to sample one of his primary interests: government.
He spent most of his time gathering information about a future arts district, which Mayor Kristen Brown has identified as important to enriching the downtown experience.
Phillips, a college sophomore who is majoring in history, said he specifically researched an artisan center in West Virginia and explored the viability of such a center in Columbus.
“I did a lot of research and writing and met a lot of cool people,” Phillips said. “I liked the work and learned how government works.”
Community Development Director Mary Ferdon said she was impressed with Phillips’ primary function of assisting the Mayor’s Art Committee, which is preparing an application for statewide designation as a Cultural District.
“His work and effort have been invaluable to the city and is truly appreciated, especially because he is doing this as a volunteer,” Ferdon said.
Melanie Cleland, a Columbus North graduate who is now a senior at Indiana University, also was an intern in the Community Development office.
Ferdon said Cleland helped with the city’s Arts District application to the state and with the city’s social media policy.
Coatsworth, a sophomore at Indiana University, gathered data for the engineering office about city sidewalks and which were most in need of upgrades to accommodate disabled people.
But he said he knew going into his internship that engineering was not for him as a career.
In fact, his major in international studies, French and Spanish is a far cry from it.
“I just wanted to work with small town government so I could see the ins and outs of how it works,” Coatsworth said. “I learned a lot.”
Wang, a freshman at IU’s Kelley School of Business, helped City Attorney Kelly Benjamin gather information from other communities about how to build an ethics ordinance.
Wang’s major is business, but he said getting to see the inner workings of city government was a valuable experience that helped him to work more efficiently overall.
“It was always a mystery to me how city government operates,” he said. “I wanted to experience it, and I got my chance.”
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