During his campaign for Mayor, Bernie Sanders talked about the needs and concerns of young people. Upon taking office, he assembled the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth to identify these concerns, which resulted in the formation of the Mayor’s Youth Office. Jane O’Meara (Driscoll) Sanders was appointed as the founding director.

He tasked his future wife, O’Meara Sanders, who at the time went by her maiden name Driscoll, and local youth organizers to find a way to improve communication between the city’s youth population and the municipal government. [1] As the founding Director of the Mayor’s Youth Office in the City of Burlington, Vermont from 1981 to 1991, Jane developed many programs and nonprofits for children and families that continue today.[2]

The Mayor’s Youth Office, working with local children and young adults, was involved with several city issues, including child care, housing, community service, and the performing arts. Special projects included the Queen City Special, a Teen Center, 242 Main Street, and the Burlington Youth Employment Program.

“The first thing they wanted was an office in City Hall – one that was empowered when decisions were being made,” said O’Meara Sanders. “I went to the City Council with a local principal and asked for a desk and a phone in City Hall. And they approved it.”[1]

Run by a mix of volunteers and public servants, the Mayor’s Youth Office set about implementing new programs: launching a Burlington public access TV show run by kids; opening a sliding-fee scale daycare that’s still running; helping the elderly with snow shoveling, and starting a newspaper run by teenagers that published stories on issues ranging from teen suicide to the school budget.[1]