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Second-grader named junior mayor of Safety Harbor after toy-sharing idea

Brody Barnhisel helped provide toys for Safety Harbor Waterfront Park visitors. The mayor thought the idea was worthy of junior mayor status for the 7-year-old.

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — Brody Barnhisel couldn’t help but smile when a vacationing family from Pennsylvania picked up a football and started tossing it around. The 7-year-old helped make the smiles and family fun a reality with his new "Play On The Bay" toy box at Safety Harbor Waterfront Park.

“I wanted all kids to have fun whether or not they’re from our town or a different town,” said the soon-to-be second-grader.

Just a few feet away, city Mayor Joe Ayoub watched with an equally pure smile.

“This was a very unique idea,” he said.

The current mayor, who has served for four years, promoted Barnhisel to "junior mayor" on June 6 for his outreach project. The "Play On The Bay" box, filled with footballs, soccer balls, jump ropes, hula hoops and more – all to be used for free by park visitors – was Barnhisel’s idea. Ayoub felt like that was a worthy cause. The city paid for the toys. Barnhisel helped unveil it in early June.

“So, he’s got a two-month term,” Ayoub said. “(Brody gets) to see how government is run so, yeah, it’s a lot of fun.”

The Safety Harbor junior mayor will help with official city duties and make appearances at ribbon cuttings and unveilings. Barnhisel got to gavel in a city council meeting and was given an award by Ayoub. He will serve as junior mayor for June and July and then another junior mayor will be selected for his or her community service.

“It was just pure joy to have him come up with this idea,” said Brody’s mother, Candy.

Brody was excited to earn the honor. He is looking forward to going to official city events and help in any way. It could be good training. He thinks the idea of taking Ayoub’s job someday sounds like a good plan.

“There are a few years he needs to age before he’s eligible,” joked the Safety Harbor mayor. “Other than that, he’s going to be a contender.”

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