Every year, City Council members, Directors, and I sign holiday cards that are sent to members of our many advisory boards and commissions. The practice goes back a long way, and I think it’s a nice, small way to show our appreciation for the countless hours volunteers give to the City of Albany. The exercise also reminds me how easy it is to be involved in local government.
We are currently advertising for volunteers to seek appointment to committees that cover subjects ranging from the airport to parks & recreation. Most of the committees meet once a month with some occasional holidays during months when many people are on vacation. The appointment process is simple and really only requires filling out an application. We do have popular committees where many people apply for few vacancies, but there are almost always opportunities on other boards for anyone motivated to get involved.
Serving on a board or commission is a great way to learn more about local government while also contributing unique skills, experience, or just good sense. Many of our volunteers have been involved for a number of years and served on different boards. The City Council makes the final decision on appointments, and they are always looking for qualified applicants. Most current Councilors started their involvement with the City by serving on an advisory commission.
I can personally testify that serving on a board can also be good training for a career. My service in local government began as a planning commission member in Bend and includes four years as an elected school board member in Eugene. The lessons I learned from those experiences have helped me throughout my career as a city manager. Perhaps the most important thing I learned is the importance of respecting different views if anything of consequence is going to be accomplished. My work as a volunteer also taught me to appreciate the many hours board members sacrifice on behalf of their communities. Even when I may have a completely different point of view from a fellow committee member, I can respect that their commitment to what they believe is equivalent to my own.
I received an email from a resident a few days ago expressing interest in getting more involved in local government in the wake of the recent election. I can’t think of a more positive response to an election, regardless of how you may feel about the outcome, than to get out and work to make things better. I hope Albany’s long tradition of community involvement remains strong and that more people will take the time to exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities as citizens.