Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ladies - Get Involved in Local Government

I’m very proud to have recently graduated from Emerge California, a training program for Democratic women interested in political leadership.  For about seven years, I lived in Washington, DC and dedicated my career to advancing women leaders in politics.  I literally taught a class about gender and politics at American University.  Finally, it was my turn to practice what I preach and return to my beloved Bay Area.  Rather than being the teacher, I became the student.

I am very optimistic about the real possibility of creating tangible impact via local government.  For example, cities, counties, and states are able to pass ordinances and laws years before such change can happen at the federal level.  For example, check out the Municipality Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign.  Municipalities can advance equality at a much faster pace than at the federal level.

Emerge California is truly the premier training program to prepare women to be ethical leaders and transform the political system.  Moreover, one of my favorite aspects of Emerge California is being a part of a genuine sisterhood of passionate, ambitious, brilliant women working together to make a difference for our communities.  There are Emerge programs in 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. I highly recommend applying and am happy to answer any questions about the application process or program.

While I am deeply familiar with federal government, the system of local government is very different.  For instance, in California our legislators have term limits and are subject to the Brown Act, which ensures the public's right to information.  Such governance practices do not yet completely exist at the federal level.

Your city or county may offer free programs to learn more about how they work, so check out their website for programs about civic education.  I took a Civics 101 free class through the County of San Mateo. Below are some steps I have learned from Emerge California about how someone can start to get involved in local government.

Apply to join a commission for your county or city

On the city and county level, multiple opportunities exist for you to serve on a board or commission.  More women’s voices need to be on these important decision-making bodies.  Check out your city or county’s website for current vacancies and apply. Serving on a commission is a unique volunteer opportunity to support an issue you care about on the local level.  I am very excited to have recently been appointed to my city's Planning Commission and my county's Commission on Aging.

Volunteer with organizations working in your community

Similar to school, a local community has tons of clubs and organizations to get involved with.  Find a cause you are passionate to and learn about how it exists in your community.  Many national organizations such as the Sierra Club or Rotary Club have local chapters.  This is a great way to support an issue you care about and connect with likeminded folks.

Connect with your County’s Democratic Central Committee

Each county has one main Democratic Central Committee that serves as the umbrella group for the many local Democratic clubs.  This central group has monthly meetings that give you a true sense of the political pulse of the community.  You get to connect with the community’s leaders and understand the needs of the community. You can also volunteer for leadership positions within the Central Committee.  I am second alternate for a member of the executive committee.

Our communities need more women’s voices to be represented!  Decisions are made at the local level that have a real impact on people’s lives.  Get involved!