Community & You: How To Get Involved
Mayor Samford’s Story
As a kid, he grew up playing checkers with WWI veterans who were leaders of the community. Then, his dad (my grandfather), became the mayor of the City of Holland. He had a deep-seated drive to want to help the community and was involved throughout high school in local organizations.
Then, he ran for alderman of the city, which lead to a successful run for mayor.
What Is Your Why
Keith says you have to think about why you want to get involved in your community. Some people get involved because of an instance that makes you want to make a change.
Whether it is your next-door neighbor having chickens (yep he’s heard that story a few times!) It could be as simple as a street light issue, pollution issue, or health and safety issue. Or you could just want your town to grow and thrive.
When you find your why then you can start to take action.
Commit To Living With Intention
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“Know yourself and decide where you will fit in the best. What will give you the most enjoyment while doing the best for your town, your community, and go from there!”
Why building community is important
Mayor Keith Samford says that’s how you get things done! It is how you make a town liveable. If you want to live a healthy life with clean water and air, then you need to be able to work with the people in your community, your neighbors, to make it happen. It makes it a livable town when you build community.
Usually, incentives to make the town, and the people in it, a better place helps the environment as well. For instance, sidewalks made for accessibility encourage everyone in the community to walk or bike – reducing emissions.
It allows you to help others and grow an appreciation for the community and other people in it – making it more likely that you will take action to protect those people.
You can meet new friends and neighbors (unless you’re from a really small town like mine where everyone knows everyone else!)
It’s important to protect your town – if you’re building the community you can be able to bridge the connection between our actions and environmental protection. If you’re littering or polluting it might pollute the same pond you’re neighbor is fishing in for food that night, or their water sources.
Mayor Samford says that being a part of the community can mean getting involved in local government, and the two have to come together to overcome challenges.
Mayor Keith says that you have a little more power with the local government. You depend on the government that you elected to do the right thing and to listen to concerns. They should be discarding waste correctly, making sure the town is safe and clean, and enacting programs to make the town more livable and enjoyable.
If you want the area to stay sustainable, you have to do that. You need people in government to tell the people things that have to be done to make it a healthier and safer place and then get the people rallied behind them.
Getting Involved in Local Government
If you have a problem and your local government isn’t listening – he suggests running for office yourself!
You can run for mayor, city council, or even a board seat (like the independent library or park boards). His advice? “Don’t be disappointed if you don’t win something the first time”
Local government and community working together
He says that civic organizations are the ones that can rally the people behind a cause, but they need local government in order to block off the streets for parades or change laws in order to get things done.
“You can have separate pieces of music but you cant have an orchestra without everyone working together”
One inspires the other. He says if you can gt everyone on the same page you can transform a small town into a nice place to live.
4 Ways to Get Involved In Your Community
Find out what local school boards, park boards, or other committees are responsible for making changes in areas you care about and reach out for how you can volunteer to help them. You can also volunteer for local campaigns – like mayor or state representative.
- Attend city council meetings
- Connect With People In the Community
- Run for a position in local government
You have the right to be heard by the people that are elected. Attend meetings and make suggestions for things you care about that are on the docket.
Start a club, join an existing club, or revitalize a club that isn’t active. Go to local events and introduce yourself to new people. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together to improve your neighborhood.
You can run for mayor, city council positions, state representative, or more depending on how your government is set up. Inquire at city hall what positions are available.
Last words of advice
Mayor Samford says “You do need to pace yourself. You need to set goals and then try to keep yourself from overdoing because you can do too much.”
And don’t overcommit yourself to too many things in your community. He says that you have to be willing to say no for the greater good – so you can go the long distance.
“Know yourself and decide where you will fit in the best. What will give you the most enjoyment while doing the best for your town, your community, and go from there”