Volunteer for Boards and Commissions

Plano Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting

City of Plano Planning and Zoning Commission Meets At City Hall

National news can be so overwhelming, making us feel helpless under the weight of all of it. But remember the famous words of former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill: All politics is local.

If we are to effect real change in our country, we have to create change in our closer communities: our cities and our neighborhoods. That change won’t occur on social media. In Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change, author Eitan Hersh tells us, “A third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics. Of these people, four out of five say that not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work.” Political hobbyism is not political activism, and only activism can create change. Imagine all that we could accomplish if all of the Democrats who engage with politics for 2+ hours a day traded social media and TV time for engagement in city government.

We have to step out of the echo chamber and into the world where real change happens. As you start the new year, consider laying the groundwork now for applying for a board or commission in your city government. 

As an example, Murphy resident Diana Cain applied for Murphy Parks & Recreation Board in 2019 because it oversees preservation of green spaces and trees. She says, “The oversight, vigilance, and cooperation with multiple levels of government are vital to maintaining our quality of life. As a preservationist, I know that I’m making a difference now when before I was only engaged as a bystander.” 

Whether you love the environment, animals, the arts, or historical sites or if you are concerned about the alarming trend towards removing books from libraries, there is a place for you to make a difference.

Once you join a board or commission, you can establish connections in your city and build your resume if you decide to run for office. This is an important step in “building a bench” for political parties. The Republicans are clearly running a grassroots assault on our democracy and trying to use city council and school board as a farm league for candidates for partisan office. If we don’t vye for these positions, they will. Even if you don’t want to run for office, you can overcome their efforts to dominate decision-making at the local level.

Former Allen City Councilwoman Lauren Doherty says, “It’s important for us to have representation at any level of city government and learn what’s going on behind the scenes. You can also get your name out there among city staff and elected officials.” 

Every city manages the application process differently, so it’s important to do a little research into your city’s process and timeline.  Also, different B&C have different meeting schedules: some meet 2-3 times per year and some meet monthly.

Here’s how you can get started: 

  1. Look at the boards and commissions available in your city and find one that’s right for you. Contact your local city office for the deadline for the application. 
  2. Regularly attend the B&C meetings that interest you. You have a better chance of selection if you show commitment for an extensive time ahead of the application deadline. 
  3. Apply for more than one board or commission to increase your chances of selection.
  4. Attend city council meetings regularly so that the council members recognize you; they are the ones who make the selections.
  5. Keep applying if you don’t get accepted. It’s rare that someone is chosen the first time they apply, so keep applying to show that you are dedicated to being appointed.
  6. Remember that school boards have committees as well! 

As Democrats, we must be visible and active in our community so that we can gain the necessary power to strengthen our neighborhoods from the ground up. Chances are that you’re already spending 2+ hours a day consuming politics, and now is the time to convert some of that time into work that will positively and permanently impact your community.