That accessibility is partly due to the small population of Vermont. With fewer than 700,000 residents, Vermont has fewer people than many medium-sized cities in more populated parts of the world. Because of that, there are few degrees of separation between average citizens and those in government. Chances are a state representative or senator will be having lunch at the neighborhood diner or shopping in the market. For local government, it also means a selectboard member or other town official may also be a friend, neighbor, parent of a child’s classmate, or a business acquaintance, if not all of them.
Local government is often an extension of the local community. Our leaders are in many ways like everyone else, because they come from similar pockets of the community. That’s a big part of why government is so accessible here. There are so many shared experiences that, when issues arise, oftentimes the people involved have dealt with one another previously.
What we’re trying to say is that government isn’t someone who is unknown to the community. It is the community.
Right now, towns around the valley are seeking candidates for office. People are needed to help local towns function. Towns need people to fill seats on school boards, selectboards, and other offices.
There really isn’t much required, except for an open mind, a willingness to learn about one’s community, and the desire to serve.
What does it take? The whole process is pretty simple, really.
What’s needed is a nominating petition, which can be picked up at the town clerk’s office. A brief conversation with the clerk will tell you what positions are open, who is up for reelection, and who else may or may not be running for a position. Once the petition is in hand, you will need signatures from 1% of the registered voters in town. That can easily be done spending a half hour or so at the post office, diner, school, or anywhere else residents of the community tend to congregate. Turn the petition back in, and when Town Meeting rolls around in March, you’ll be on the ballot. Seriously, that’s all there is to it.
Of course, it may help to be an informed candidate. That would require attending a few board meetings prior to the election. Having some basic understanding of the issues facing the town will help make for more informed discussion and decision-making.
So, if anyone is at all interested, the time to act is now. Deadline for turning in nominating petitions is Monday, January 27. Granted, it’s not a lot of time, but it really won’t take very long to complete the process. It will be time well spent.
Government in Vermont really is accessible to all. Here’s an opportunity to find out just how much so. Towns need candidates. Why not you?