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Seven year old girl runs America's 8th largest city for a day

The third grader won San Diego's 'Mayor for a Day' contest and enjoyed a full day of ribbon cuttings, city council meetings and pizza.

SAN DIEGO — Running America's eighth largest city can be challenging, especially when you are only seven years old. In this Zevely Zone, Mayor Todd Gloria shared his message about the importance of civic duty. 

Sometimes in life you don't have to be a big person to sit in the big chair. Mayor Todd Gloria held a Mayor for the Day contest. Students from across San Diego applied by submitting essays. 

The winner was 7-year-old, Aiella Niles, from Mira Mesa who wrote an essay about the importance of picking up litter and keeping San Diego clean.

Mayor Gloria grew up in Clairemont. When he was child, he applied to be mayor for a day. He recently showed me a picture of him that day dressed in finest suit.

Credit: San Diego's Mayor for a Day Contest

 "That was my first suit, doesn't look all that different from now," said Mayor Gloria. The day he spent at City Hall 33 years ago shaped his life. "Some of you may remember when I took office, I relaunched the Mayor for a Day contest. It's an opportunity for people to become more civically engaged," Mayor Gloria said in front of a crowd of people where they opened a park.

Credit: San Diego's Mayor for a Day Contest

It was a busy day for Aiella, that started in the mayor's conference room at City hall. "Welcome, everybody can I introduce you to the mayor for the day? Mayor Niles everybody!" said Mayor Gloria. Aiella told me her classmates couldn't believe she was palling around with the mayor and moving up to the eleventh floor. "They were really impressed that I got to do that," said Aiella.  

Credit: San Diego's Mayor for a Day Contest

After meeting with city workers and the fire department, the third grader faced a desk full of decisions. "This is the big office, right?" said Mayor Gloria as Aiella sat down at his desk. "I need this proofread and approved before five," laughed Mayor Gloria. She was quickly rewarded with candy from a jar that sits on the mayor's desk.

Credit: San Diego's Mayor for a Day Contest

Next up? A ribbon cutting at a new park then it was off to meet the city council. "She got a good reception, maybe a little stage fright at the microphone," said Mayor Gloria. "There is a lot of people," said Aiella. I asked if she got nervous. "Yeah, a little," said Aiella. Mayor Gloria then added, "I get nervous too. It's an occupational hazard."

Credit: San Diego's Mayor for a Day Contest

We were waiting for Aiella inside the mayor's conference room for her first interview with the press. My toughest question was what they ate for lunch? "Pizza," Aiella said with a big smile. 

33-years ago, when Mayor Gloria was a kid, he applied to be mayor for the day too. "Unlike Aiella I came in third place so she is off to a better start than me," said Mayor Gloria who believes in life, if you haven't seen it, you can't be it. "I really want people to consider public service this is a wonderful way to spend a career and you have to start early and let people like Aiella see our firefighters, our trash collection folks, our park planners our city council members," said Mayor Gloria.

RELATED: Fourth grade news reporter from Clairemont scores interview with San Diego mayor

Aiella met them all and held her own. "It is a pretty awesome day," she said. Aiella even took it upon herself to give the Todd Squad a new name: Aiella's All-Stars.

RELATED: Legendary San Diego teacher honored on her 100th birthday

"Now, that's a strong mayor," said Mayor Gloria. Aiella Niles attends Sandburg Elementary in Mira Mesa. Mayor Gloria says he will keep the Mayor for Day contest alive for as long as he holds the office.

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