Importance of Voting in Your Local Elections

The 2020 election is one of the most important elections of our lifetime!

Presidential General Elections are usually highly emotional and generate many lively conversations around the workplace “water cooler.” The political party platforms and campaign promises give us many topics to discuss and debate. Unfortunately, this year, with many folks working at home, the “conversations” have been occurring more through social media and less out in the public square.

When the national and state races heat up, particularly as the election date draws near, the attention they demand leaves little room for local races at the community, city and county level. Local candidates have to find opportunities to push their way into our lives with whatever means they have available. Knocking on doors is often a favorite campaign option for a local candidate to sway votes his or her way; however, this has been a very different year, and that particular option has been somewhat restricted. Yard signs are also popular, but this strategy has to wait until approximately six weeks prior to the election.

Many voters even question the necessity to vote locally. After all, aren’t the presidential, national and state races the most important? In many regards, yes, they are, particularly in reference to national policies that are established or decisions that are made directing our country as a whole. However, when it comes to reachability, there is no comparison to the ease we have in our ability to contact our locally elected officials.

Think about it for a moment—how many national or state elected officials live in our community? Maybe one if we are lucky! In contrast, how many locally elected officials live in our community? In the Conejo Valley, we have over 15 locally elected officials. You may know a neighbor, a friend, or a family member who serves in this capacity and is a representative for our community. Now that is ACCESS! 

While some residents may be aware of the School Board Trustees, City Council Members, or County Supervisors, there are many other locally elected officials serving in our community. The Conejo Recreation and Park District is one of several Special Districts (local governments created by the people to deliver special services) that serve the Conejo Valley. There are actually over 20 Special Districts throughout Ventura County, each with a specific role (recreation and parks, community services, sanitation, water, health care, etc.). Typically, each Special District has a Board consisting of five elected Directors. All of them contribute to improving our local quality of life.

In addition to addressing local District issues, policies and budgets, the Conejo Recreation and Park District Directors are often engaged in regional, state-wide and national organizations and associations, thereby widely expanding their network to benefit the community. For example, the Directors participate in the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Ventura County Special Districts Association, California Association of Recreation and Park Districts and several others. These organizations, in turn, are associated with larger networks which expand their influence and roles. Hence, your local vote has not only community, but regional, state and national reverberations.

As local officials, it is our job to not only be accessible, but to also be accountable to our constituents; in person, face-to-face interaction enables accessibility and promotes accountability. We see you around town at local establishments, cross paths with you on local trails, root for our children and grandchildren side by side at the playfields and often participate in the same community events. However, we are obligated to represent you. We must unequivocally pledge to partner with you, communicate with you, interact with you, problem solve with you and authentically serve you. By electing us, we owe you our time, community engagement and leadership.

Your vote of support carries a lot of weight and responsibility, so make it count. Study the ballot. Research the candidates. Know the issues. Get engaged in the public square. Then vote. Use your vote to influence your local community first, and then watch the small ripples turn to waves across the country.

Doug Nickles is a Director/Board Member for the Conejo Recreation and Park District and the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. The views expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the District, Agency or the respective Boards. He can be contacted via email at dnickles@crpd.org.

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