This title is borrowed from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, one of the most inspiring speeches in history. As another election season has ended, I believe we’re in need of some inspiration. Regardless of the issues that passed or failed and the officials that were elected or defeated, there’s still a lot of work to do. As citizens, with all the negative government press, it’s tempting to tune out. But do we really expect our government to do all that work alone?
In this country and around the world, there is a movement for more involvement in government. To achieve government excellence, you must have citizen engagement. It’s at the core of our nation’s charter. In fact, it’s common sense for any organization to get the voice of the people.
So to be heard, you have to know who you’re contacting and how to reach them. Here are some helpful tips and links to get started.
Local Officials – Search for your community website and browse around. The “CEO” is the City or Village Manager, or Township Administrator (in some states). They are accountable to the elected officials in their council or board of trustees. They also manage all the departments of your municipality – police, fire, streets, economic development, permits, etc. Property tax levies and income tax are set and managed locally. You should understand how your local taxes are being used to maintain and improve the quality of life in your community. You’re also entitled to participate in public meetings and learn how managers and councils make their decisions. Here’s an example of an effective city website for Dublin, Ohio.
County Officials – Search your county website to find the commissioners, boards and committees, courts, prosecutor, auditor, treasurer, health and human services, board of elections, regional economic development and financing options, and links to other government and community agencies. You may also find the links to your state and federal representatives here. Here are the websites for Franklin and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio, as examples.
Elected Officials By State – This link lists the senators and representatives (both federal and state), governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, etc. Input your zip code to find bios, contact information, work in progress and other helpful information.
Federal Officials – This site provides information on our President, Vice President, cabinet, staff, and advisory boards.
The links and web searches above will help you get more acquainted with the people, departments and issues that impact you and your business. In addition, there are other easy ways for you to get involved:
– Go to local meetings, ask questions to learn more, and provide respectful, concise feedback.
– Watch for special meetings or reports on annual budgets, state of the city, vision and planning, etc.
– Get involved on a committee in various areas of government business or special programs or events. Ask the volunteer coordinator about positions, flexible hours and/or seasonal needs.
– Read your local paper for regular news and special meetings open to the public.
– Use social media to follow your local officials and representatives, departments, communities, issues of interest, etc. In many cases, you can also subscribe to Email or RSS feed updates.
– Contact your representatives directly and encourage others to do the same.
The challenges in our country are real and unprecedented, at least for this generation. Everyone has to work together. If we want a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” then “we the people” have to get more involved.