It was 9 balmy degrees. This was up from the low of zero midday. It wasn’t a fit night out for man or beast, yet at least a half dozen people sat in the audience.
The meeting kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. There was nothing particularly pressing on the agenda, just the normal business of a middling-sized township in a middle-sized county in middle America.
The meeting would last approximately 45 minutes. There would be approval of prior minutes. There would be discussion of road salt (consensus being “we’re good.” There would be payroll signed and a brief discussion of a tree that needed cut down.
When the chairman got to the public comments portion of the evening, answers ranged from “just visiting” to “just wanted to thank the road crew for the great job on the roads.”
To reiterate, people came out in the biting cold simply because their local elected officials had a public meeting and as members of that represented public, they felt the need to come.
Their homes were certainly warmer. They probably had snacks. Dancing with the Stars might even be on! (Isn’t it always on?)
Still, they came out.
That, my friends, is America.
Whether you live in a city, village, town or township, someone has been elected to help run the daily business of your neighborhood. These people keep the utilities moving, roads clear, bills paid and taxes handled. They will often oversee safety services like police and fire.
In many areas, they do this in addition their full-time careers and day jobs.
For most, being a small-time elected official is not the path to riches. In fact, as often as I’ve seen elected officials dig into their own pockets to help with fundraising and projects, I would suggest it helps to start out fairly wealthy.
It also helps to have a very understanding family. An awful lot of meetings happen in the evenings and during academic and athletic events.
Meanwhile, various boards meet for a variety of reasons, all manned by volunteers. People who give time, physical and mental energy to be of service to their community: zoning, commerce, historical societies and parks and recreation. These are just a few of the areas where volunteer efforts make all the difference in communities both large and small.
The people willing to step out, step up and get involved are people to applaud.
Are you pleased with your area? Have you thanked a councilman today? Go tell them! Unhappy? You have an even better reason to go! Public officials are rarely psychic. They need public input and feedback to function properly.
As it is, I find it interesting to hear people who don’t vote and don’t bother to become involved. I came home cold and tired, but well informed. Nerd alert: I like knowing what goes on.
I recently had a conversation someone discussing how desperately unhappy he was with just about everything in his locale. I suggested in my usual Pollyanna way that he consider attending a meeting, help out, get involved.
To this he laughed. With me? At me? It wasn’t clear.
He followed that laugh with a derisive head shake and said “Me? Volunteer? That would be a cold day in …”
Yes that sounds about right. For the truly involved citizens, sometimes it is.
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