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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I wrote a column for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for 8 years starting in December 2007 and running until November 2015. Then I returned to column writing in August 2016, all of them archived here.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Learning how to get involved in local affairs

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Dec. 15, 2016

About 20 residents from around DeKalb County spent Saturday morning in the community room at the DeKalb police station learning about public service, both through community volunteerism and running for office. The workshop was hosted by #ProudlyDeKalb.

It was good to see three of the candidates for DeKalb mayor - Mike Embrey, incumbent John Rey and Jerry Smith - plus a couple of others who could be City Council or city clerk candidates. Three attendees were from other communities - Malta, Cortland and Creston.

The first three presenters were Greg Kuhn from the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University, Peter Burchard, also from NIU and a retired city manager, plus Robert Beezat, another retired city manager.

Seminar panelist from left: Cohen Barnes Bertrand Simpson, Clark Neher, Brendon Gallagher, and NIU speaker Greg Kuhn (Schrader photo for Shaw Media)

Later in the morning former city and school board officials sat as a panel to answer questions.

They were Brendon Gallagher and Bertrand Simpson, both past DeKalb aldermen, Cohen Barnes, a former DeKalb School District 428 board member, and Clark Neher, former president of the DeKalb library board.

A quote I liked came from Burchard: "Never underestimate the power of your voice."

Another piece of good advice from him: A person should be thinking, "I am here to serve the public's interest, not my own self-interest."

Over many years of covering government and politics, I have found that some of the best community activists start with one burning issue that bugs them, or one passion they want pursued.

After a few months or even years of community involvement, some serve on a city or county committee or commission, others even run for public office.

My personal experience at getting involved started when we formed a citizens' committee to advocate for creating a stand-alone community college in a large district that was dominated by those in a larger metropolitan area.

After a year of butting heads with that board, it was suggested I run for a board seat.

To make a long story short, I defeated a 20-year incumbent and was elected two more times to that board. And we did get the new college built and accredited during that time.

But I knew enough to eventually say "mission accomplished" and move on to other interests.

Too many local officials decide the place can't get along without them and so keep running over and over, sometimes for the common good, other times out of self-interest and ego.

That is why I firmly believe term limits would be good for ALL forms of government, even for appointed bodies.
It was fascinating to learn that the DeKalb mayor, with consent of the council, has to fill no less than 96 positions on city boards, commissions and committees.

There certainly still is room for people who want to help.

So find your passion and step up to serve your community in some way.

For those who didn't attend the seminar Saturday but may be interested, there is a draft document titled "A citizen's guide to elected and appointed positions serving the City of DeKalb," which you can request by contacting the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU. Just call 815-753-1907. It is full of helpful information.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115