By Nate Nehring
Our government is based on a representative form in which voters get to select the people they want to make decisions on their behalf. But voting is not the end of civic engagement.
Many decisions, especially at the local level, are influenced by who shows up. We need to hear from those who are impacted by the decisions we make. While much of the media focuses on federal and state decisions that are made, many of those decisions are actually implemented at a local level.
That is to say that the cities and counties are often times the service providers and have a direct connection to the constituents that they serve. This makes civic engagement at the local level that much more important.
It is also easier to connect with local elected officials. You often see us at the grocery store or community events. And our offices are here locally where you can access us more easily than your state legislators or federal congressional representatives.
I believe it is important to encourage civic engagement. So I have made a concerted effort to reach out to and encourage youth participation in the political process. I have had multiple opportunities to speak to groups of students focused on government.
I have judged speaking and debate competitions in our community. And most recently, I was able to host a tour group of middle and high school students at our offices where the County Council passed a resolution commending the civic engagement of these youth and encouraging more civic engagement from people of all ages.
I believe it is important to make sure that our constituents are informed about the actions that their government is taking. That being said, civic engagement is a two-way street. When you show up, you can make a difference. So I encourage constituents to show up to our meetings, reach out to our office, and make their voices heard.
If you are ready to take it a step further, there are opportunities to sit on boards and commissions at the county and city levels. These citizen boards make policy recommendations to staff and elected officials.
Snohomish County’s boards and commissions application can be found at snohomishcountywa.gov/3339/Apply. You can find the city of Marysville’s at marysvillewa.gov/195/Boards-Commissions and Arlington’s at www.arlingtonwa.gov/424/Boards-Commissions.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1, which includes Arlington and Marysville. His column runs each month.