CINCINNATI -- Nine-year-old Madelyn Gerker has written to the government, addressed City Council and, as of Wednesday afternoon, sat down for a serious talk with the mayor of Cincinnati -- all in pursuit of a safe sidewalk for her journey to school.
"I was excited that he was listening," Gerker said.
Gerker first wrote to Cranley and City Council in March, when she argued her need for a sidewalk in a concise, handwritten letter. She and her siblings, she said, dodge speeding cars and broken pavement on Sussex Avenue to make it from their Mount Washington home to Sands Montessori school each morning.
"A couple months ago, my brother Henry almost got run over by a bus," she wrote in the letter.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who has pushed for safer streets, made Gerker's letter a focal point in a March 27 council meeting and filed a motion asking the administration to apply for federal funding to provide a new sidewalk. A representative from his office joined other local officials and city engineers in walking Gerker's exact route April 10.
Putting a sidewalk on Sussex, which as an older street lacks drainage and curb infrastructure, could cost up to $200,000, Cincinnati principal engineer Bob Vickrey estimated after the walk.
"It's not just putting sidewalks on there," Vickrey said then. "You have to do the curb work, end up working with storm water, all different issues."
He added he hoped the Ohio Department of Transportation and grant programs could contribute to covering the cost.
Gerker said she was happy to have met with the mayor Wednesday; her mother said that, regardless of the outcome, she was happy to see her daughter take such an active role in advocating for positive change.
"Through this whole thing, we have really seen a huge increase in her confidence," Heather Gerker said.
Cranley noticed it, too. Madelyn Gerker said that, after posing for a picture with her, he told her: "This is what democracy looks like."
And that statement has her thinking of the future, she said. Could she be the next mayor?
"Yeah," she said. "Or president."