In 2020, after having met with my state senator in 2019 and concluded that my voice was not heard, I decided to run for state office. In the voting booth, I only had my one vote. By running for office, I had the opportunity to represent the voices of thousands of other citizens whose voices, like mine, were not necessarily heard either.
During my run for state Senate in the 19th District, which includes the communities of Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich and Sprague, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet thousands of people. I spoke with people of every party affiliation. I was amazed at their willingness to stop and talk with me about what was important to them.
The issues most commonly raised were the high cost of living, high taxes, education, concern over government accountability and transparency, loss of freedoms, and practices that make Connecticut unfriendly to businesses and investors. I learned that many of the issues important to the residents of the 19th District were not necessarily the same issues that were headlined in the national races.
I made a New Year’s Resolution for 2021 to stay involved in local and state issues and to make sure my voice is heard. I am participating in different local discussions, serving on my local Zoning Board of Appeals, and have volunteered with several different local employment and community initiatives.
The term, “All politics is local,” attributed to House Speaker Tip O’Neill, is one I now better appreciate. Many of the decisions that affect us all the most occur at the local and state levels. Issues such as school funding, labor contracts, tax assessments, zoning and many more are made at the local level. There are also decisions made by our state legislature (when they haven’t abdicated their responsibilities to the governor) in the form of mandates, taxes and laws, that trickle down to affect our local municipalities.
By getting involved, by volunteering on local committees, or running for an elected position, citizens can have a direct impact on what decisions are made at the local and state level. In communities across the state, there are board and committee positions that are vacant and waiting to be filled by engaged citizens. I have heard from long-serving local board and commission members who have stated that they will step down when someone else steps up to serve. It’s a great thing to have new blood, new energy, and new perspectives.
One of the first steps one can take to get involved in local government is to seek out your local political town committee. Whether Republican, Democrat or other political affiliation, the leaders on these town committees can help guide you to an area of need.
Those looking to get more involved should seek out people who are currently serving to find out what the requirements and commitments are. Many do not know who is serving their communities. Much of this information can be found online on town websites. Information on the different boards and commissions, including members, meeting dates, initiatives, time commitment, and more, can be found on your town’s website, or by speaking with someone in town government.
When I was considering getting more involved locally a couple of years ago, I made a phone call to our town manager and I received a list of all committee vacancies and volunteer opportunities.
Although my run for office did not end in a win at the polls, the experience of learning and understanding more about how government functions was eye opening and rewarding. I was encouraged by friends and contacts from all over. I met many new people and made many new connections.
My family, friends, and business contacts participated in the campaign process and were exposed to many great discussions with residents of the 19th District who want the best for their families and their communities.
For those pondering whether they can make a difference, you can by taking part in local government. Your community needs your involvement more than you know.
Steve Weir was a Republican candidate for state Senate in 2020.