CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A fifth grader from Nashua was sworn in as New Hampshire's first "Kid Governor" on Friday, promising to work hard to protect animals from abuse and urging the Legislature to do the same.
In a brief but spirited inaugural address, Lola Giannelli promoted efforts to collect food and blankets for shelter animals and legislation to require pet stores to sell animals only from shelters and nonprofit groups.
"We made it this far, but now is when the real work begins. I still need your help," she told a crowd of supporters at the Statehouse. "Can I count on you guys to help me? Awesome!"
The Kid Governor program, created by the Connecticut Democracy Center in 2015, is aimed at encouraging civic engagement by teaching students about the history of voting rights, the qualities of good leaders and the mechanics of campaigns. More than 450 students in six schools participated in an election in November.
In addition to Giannelli, the other two candidates were Ben Vachon, of Concord, whose platform focused on food waste, and Evelyn Ellis-Haines, of Belmont, whose issue was homelessness. They will serve as Kid Executive Councilors, and Giannelli said she plans to incorporate their platforms into her work as she performs her duties. That includes creating videos to share with other students, maintaining a blog, speaking to audiences across the state and participating in events with the New Hampshire Institute for Civics Education and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
The newly elected officials heard from all three branches of state government at Friday's ceremony, including Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. He noted that Giannelli's platform intersects with his own animal protection efforts, including pushing to tighten animal cruelty laws after an abuse case in Wolfeboro, and told her the key to good leadership is putting together a good team.
Chief Justice Robert Lynn of the New Hampshire Supreme Court praised the Kid Governor program and the importance of civics education.
"If you don't understand how government is supposed to work, it's hard to do if what people are doing is correct," he said.
Gianelli also left with a souvenir from First Lady Valerie Sununu: the governor's lapel pin featuring the New Hampshire state seal.
"I wanted to steal it right off his jacket, so you know for real it was his," she said.