I got an email from a reader last week asking how someone can get involved in local government. She had asked around, and no one really knew how to get involved so she turned to an expert. Unable to find one, she decided to ask me, instead. So how does someone get involved in local government?
To start with, you simply must know who your representation actually is. Know your city and county commissioners, and find their email address. This can generally be found on the commission’s website along with other contact information for them. You’re going to need this.
Next, simply watch what’s going on in the news. There’s bound to be something you care deeply about. When you find that topic, start pestering the heck out of your commissioner…only by pester, I mean to politely email and let them know how you feel. Phone calls work too. Make sure they know how you feel and clear, yet respectful manner.
Don’t let it lay there, though. Make sure you express how you feel in letter to the editor to local newspapers. You can also pass along an op-ed to us at laws-n-sausages.com and let us run your opinions as well. Be prepared though. If you express your opinions, you’re going to earn the ire of people who disagree with you. They won’t always be respectful either.
Next, you may want to consider visiting and speaking at local commission meetings when you’re able to. For Albany, unfortunately many of the commission meetings are held during the day, but consider making the main meetings held in the evenings once per month. Find out the specific procedure for being able to speak. Different bodies have different protocols. However, those also tend to be on their website. Use them.
There will inevitably be a time limit. However, expressing your opinion quickly and concisely should do the trick. Let them know how you feel, because you represent the views of a lot of other folks who couldn’t be there.
In time, there may be an opening on one of the various boards that the commissions have that you may find yourself interested in. If you’ve done a good job of passing along your thoughts and feelings, your commissioner may be willing to recommend you for the slot. There is a submission process, yet again found on the commission’s website. Serving on the boards may well give you more opportunity to be more involved.
Now, I should admit for the record that I didn’t do any of these things to get involved. Me? I started blabbing on the internet, telling people what I thought and how I felt. Apparently, it resonated with a fair number of folks. It was read by the commissioners themselves. That’s how I got involved, but I’ve also seen that if you’re too critical, you don’t get a lot of results.
That’s the long and the short of it. It’s not glamorous by any means, but it’s just the start. Being vocal in local affairs can lead towards opportunities to run for elected offices if you want. People will know who you are already, which is one obstacle that neophyte politicians have to overcome in a campaign.
Most importantly, though, you will help take things in your hometown and move them in a more positive direction. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, that’s what politics is supposed to be all about.
Written by Tom Knighton. Tom Knighton is the managing editor of Laws-n-Sausages.com, a political blog focusing on SWGA. He is the former co-owners of SWGAPolitics.com and currently serves as the Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia