We “buy local” to support small businesses. We “eat local” to support family farms. We are keeping people employed. We are keeping businesses in our area. With one choice at a time, we are improving our surroundings. We can also make a huge difference in our local community by exercising our rights as American citizens and getting involved in our local government. If you are interested in making a difference in your city or town, there are many ways to get involved. Read on for five easy ways to get started…
How to Get Involved In Local Government
VOTE– November 2 is Election Day!
Voters wait in lines to vote for the President, yet municipal elections have very low participation. We don't take the time to vote for local officials whose decisions are also important and could hit closer to home. Why is this?! Also, be in the know as to how your town government votes on referendums, which are single political questions that are brought forward for a decision. Referendums can be voted on at town meetings, on the ballot of a general election, or brought to ballot on their own. Visit your state's Secretary of the State website for more information on registering to vote and the voting process in your state.
BECOME A POLL WORKER
In order for elections to run smoothly and correctly, poll workers are needed. Poll workers verify voters, hand out ballots, tend the machines and pass out stickers, among other duties. I have worked the polls in my town for 10 years and I have never heard (or said) the words “we have too many poll workers”! Poll worker requirements vary by state. Contact your town Registrar or local election office for more information.
The best way to find out what's going on in your town or city is to attend meetings! Usually, upcoming meetings are listed on your town or city's website, on the town hall bulletin board, or posted in the local paper. If you can't attend meetings, minutes can usually be acquired at your Town Clerk's office, and some minutes can even be found online. Many municipalities even have their meetings live streamed or video recorded. Please note that if you have a specific question or concern about an issue, a committee or board meeting might not be the proper place to bring it up. A phone call, and email and/or one on one meeting request would be suggested for that.
HOLD AN OFFICE OR BE ON A COMMITTEE
Now I'm not suggesting everyone needs to go out and run for mayor- though go right ahead and do so if you feel the calling! There are other boards and commissions in town/city government that have seats that need to be filled and committees that need volunteers. Some of these positions are elected ones, and some are appointed. Do you like planning activities? Check out the Recreation Department. Want to keep businesses in your town? Maybe the Economic Development Commission or the Planning and Zoning Board are right for you. Most boards hold open meetings, so attend a meeting of a board or commission you are interested in. You can check with your town hall to see where openings are and how to fill them.
Municipal election dates vary across the country. If you are interested in being on the ballot for a municipal office, contacting you political party's committee town chair is the best place to start. You can usually find their contact information on your town's website, from your town clerk's office, or on your political party's state committee's website.
CALL YOUR OFFICIALS
Have a question, concern, or suggestion for your local or state leaders? Give them a call! This is the best way to get a message directly to them. Most officials love to have people show they care enough about an issue to ask questions and give input, and even set aside time to meet with their constituents one on one.
Over 15 years ago, when I first moved to town, I checked off “Yes” on my voter registration card when asked if I wanted to work elections. I have been working them ever since (when I'm not on the ballot). This was my gateway into town politics. I have since been on the Board of Assessment Appeals, the Library Board of Trustees, and the Economic Development Commission. I am currently serving as First Selectman. In November 2016 I ran for State Representative.
Are you involved in your local government? Have you ever considered it? Share in the comments below!
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I’ve been involved in government, at all levels, for over 40 years. One thing I have always set out to do was to become a friend to the people who hold elected office. As a result, many have sought me out to speak with them personally about public, and sometimes private, issues.
These are good ideas for getting INVOLVED IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT. I do vote and I should start attending the meetings.
Here’s what I learned – attend the small committee meetings, usually held during the day, that’s when the real business is done. By the time issues get to the night time full board meetings, they have fairly well decided how they will vote. At the smaller meetings, you can usually engage your council or board members in casual conversation, and you can make more of a difference. A lot of these people wish more citizens would chime in.
Sometimes they have coffee and danish.
I recently read a news article that said more people can name national or foreign leaders than can name their own state representatives. Your daily life is more likely to be impacted by state & local representatives than those in D.C.!
It seems that there’s always something going on with our School Board. I have attended many, many meetings and even spoken at a few (scary!). But it’s amazing the power that regular citizens have — you just need to make your voice heard!