Sick of National Politics? Think Local.

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Becca White

Wow, no matter your political affiliation (or lack of one) this national election season has been brutal. Before election day there was a poll done by the New York Times that showed 82% of likely voters were disgusted by this years election. Seeing that high percentage of people makes me wonder what can be done to take that anger and disgust felt by so many Americans and channel it toward positive change. Well, here is my attempt to shed some light on the incredible work done at the local level, and why I think everyone should get involved in their town or city government.

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Let me begin by introducing myself. I am Leslie Knope. Okay that isn’t true, but I’m a dead ringer. You may be familiar with the television show “Parks and Rec” which features an enthusiastic blonde woman who works in the city of Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks and Recreation Department. I’m often compared to Leslie Knope because we’re both blonde (woah), we both love our hometowns to a fault and we are both rambunctious.

To help prove this comparison here is Leslie’s campaign video running for Pawnee’s city council:

Here is my campaign video running for Hartford Select Board:

A few months ago I spoke to a Community College of Vermont class on civic engagement and it came as a surprise to many of the students in the room that being a part of their school board, planning commission, or select board was not that hard. I think the biggest barrier to getting involved on a local level is information. Our attention is so often focused on the national level that we rarely discuss our local candidates. I get it. We’re busy. If you’re just living your life, juggling work, school and your family you’re likely not exposed to the important work done by your community government. But being an engaged citizen is important. I believe local politics are the bedrock of American democracy.

Me and Madeleine Kunin.

So here it is folks - whether you are feeling angry about the election and want to make change or you’re excited and hopeful that things are now moving in the right direction, this is an incredible time to take the first step to becoming an active member of your community.

Here are some tips for getting involved:

  1. Take stock of what you are good at or like to do. For example, I am comfortable speaking publicly so the Select Board made sense for me. My partner, on the other hand, has worked in emergency management for most of his life and found the work being done by the Community Resilience Organization of Hartford to be where his talents fit best. Perhaps you love to explore the natural world so the local Tree Board is your outlet.

  2. Once you’ve figured out what your strengths are, take a look at your town’s website and see what positions are open or which elected office terms are up. If there are no options currently available don’t lose hope. Ask the department heads about what sort of volunteer help is needed or when they think someone will step down.

  3. Finally, go do it! Jump right in and know that no matter what role you take on at a local level you are doing important work that directly impacts the lives of the people in your community. You may think that you have no time to dedicate to local governance, and that is a fair assumption, but even an hour here or there can add up!

Finally, I want to stress that what happens in local or state elections matters. I work for the mission-driven Vermont solar company SunCommon and my job is greatly impacted by local and state regulations. It’s the nature of our industry. We lovingly call it the “solar coaster!” But, what does that mean to our fellow Vermonters? Some folks are worried that this most recent election is a threat to effort to stem climate change. We’ve been hearing from Vermonters that feel now is the time for them to go solar because the future of climate policy is uncertain. I applaud that kind of action. These folks are following my tips to find a way that they can act and support their community’s future. They’re outlet? Going solar. And I’m one of them. My partner and I are looking at getting solar on our new home in December. I can’t wait to join the rooftop revolution right here in Hartford! #featuredonthegram

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