by Dianna Odell, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellow
Candace Kay Andersen spoke on Thursday, June 6, 2017 on shaping public policy through serving in local government. As the current Contra Costa County Supervisor, previous Mayor of Danville, previous City Council member for both Danville Town and Morgan Hills City, and a current member of 24 local and regional boards and commissions, Supervisor Andersen spoke from a wealth of experience on shaping public policy through local politics.
Supervisor Andersen addressed many reasons why it is important to participate in local government. First, by participating in local government, we are placed in a position to create laws, rather than just responding to laws that are passed by others. This allows us to be a part of making important decisions that affect our quality of life. Second, participating in local government allows us opportunities to take an active role in identifying solutions to the problems that are most important and pressing to us. Third, through participating in local government we can aid and serve those in need. Finally, as we serve in local government we are given the unique opportunity to impact the values of the community we serve. As people of faith, when we become involved in the community, we allow others the opportunity to understand what a person of faith is, dispelling false notions about people of faith, and providing interactions that allow others to identify points of interest and commonalities in important issues.
Supervisor Andersen shared various ways to become involved in local politics. A question she is frequently asked is, “How do I get involved?” For Supervisor Andersen, her philosophy has always been that you don’t need to be the Mayor or a City Council member to make a difference, you just help where you are needed. As a mother of four young children, she loaded all four children into a stroller, walked into the city council office, and applied for the two positions that had vacancies. She was appointed to both positions! Through serving where she was needed, she became more familiar with what was important to the community, what the needs were within in her community, and how she could best help. This opened the doors for her to continue serving within her community at greater capacities.
Supervisor Andersen shared various ways to get started in local politics, such as: getting to know the local issues, familiarizing yourself with your city and county websites, searching government boards and commissions for vacancies and volunteering on committees that interest you, attending a city or committee council meeting when issues you are interested in are discussed, joining a community group, meeting with local leaders and officials of the community, participating in a community leadership class, and involving yourself in local campaigns. As we serve in local government and attempt to shape public policy, Supervisor Andersen suggested that we recognize the value of faith as we interact with those of different faiths and viewpoints. She suggests focusing on common ground, “we all come from different faiths, but here are the things we agree upon.”