Thursday, July 28, 2016

All Government Is Local: Three Ways To Direct Your Political Energy After This Presidential Election

It was not missed on me during the star studded third night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention that local government was a key theme.

I have always believed and lived my favorite truth - All government is local. From my earliest days, helping a neighbor and local single mom in Chicago Heights as she ran for our school board to my first "official" campaign work on the late Cook County Board President John Stroger's first campaign as an adult - I have invested my time, talent and energy in supporting local government. In my late 30s, I ran for and won local municipal office which led to building a profitable business transforming local government agencies throughout the Midwest and soon to be West Coast.

We heard from at least three different people the importance of local government.

Tim Kaine who started as a city councilman in Richmond, VA.

Sharon Belkofer a local school board member in part due to the encouragement of our President.

President Barack Obama urged us to vote, not just for president but for mayors, judges and other local offices.

Our current Democratic VP pick. The mourning mother of an American veteran. My favorite President.

Every four years, I see folks get energized and involved and I would urge you to find a home for that energy come November.

Want a third party movement? Look no further than what has happened the last 8 years with the Tea Party. Their power has not prevailed on a national stage but one city council, school board and state representative seat at a time. I've watched them progressively take over school and park boards across the midwest which has led to them gaining governors mansions in the last two years. It did not happen overnight. It did not happen on a grand stage. It happened in the elections no one pays attention to.

And guess what? You are way more affected by who runs your cities and counties than you EVER will be affected by who sits in the White House.

I will pick up the baton where Tim, Sharon and the POTUS left off the other night. I urge you to join me in transforming local government. There are three practical things you can do before the next presidential cycle to impact local government.


Vote in November. Educate yourself and vote next Spring. Typically, the local elections right after the presidential election year have the lowest turnout. Start in November, learn about your local races. Get to know your current local officials and the people who want your vote at the next cycle. Between this presidential race and the next one in 2020, there will be races each Spring and each November electing local, county and state offices and judicial seats .  Start now getting yourself educated so you can vote.


Volunteer in a campaign. The national campaigns typically are more organized than local campaigns and are excellent conduits for connection to local races in the future. Volunteer for a commission. Do you care are about parks and recreation? Join a local parks committee. Do you care about the environment? Volunteer for a county commission. Education? A school board commission or committee. My guess is any interests you may have, there is a local government committee or commission you can lend your talent to.  Introduce yourself to the local officials and make yourself available. Many times when vacancies occur - there are never enough qualified applicants for official to appoint. Volunteer your time and talent to make your community better.


This a big ask and certainly worth its own post. But I'd be remiss if I did not take a moment to encourage you to put your talents to work in your local community. You'd be surprised at who's running your local government agencies. Take time to learn about the issues your town or city or school board is facing. Take stock of your talents and what you can do to add value to the team that is already there. When I ran for local office the first time in 2009, I specifically ran because had two things to offer our board  - strategic thinking and diversity. Our almost 60 year old village had 5 males and one female running its board. The combined average age at that time was close to 60 and there were no people of color.  Winning that seat and bringing the average age down almost 9 years and adding the richness of being a young family with less than 10 years living in the village was a breath of fresh air. Combined with my over 19 years in corporate marketing and strategy - I was a rock star within 18 months.  Local government agencies need new perspective. And they need people willing to contribute their talents versus running because they are mad about an issue.

Since my time as an elected, I have eagerly served on state commissions for the last two Illinois governors and recently accepted an appointment to the City of Evanston's parks and recreation board. This in addition to expanding my company's reach in transforming local government agencies across this state and Minnesota.  My public service led to my business. You never know where your public service will lead you.

Please do me a favor and  don't leave your energy for our democracy in the presidential voting booth this November. Take it to your local city, county or state government agency.

Trust me. They need you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Work, My Refuge

Who knew that my tiny company and its powerful work would actually be my respite from the world?

As the United States imploded last week under the weight of the #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile and #DallasTragedy, strangely, I was ok. Not that numb, I'm checking out pseudo "ok," but a calm abiding peaceful I'm ok.

As a mom of a gentle giant 11 year old Blaxican boy, how could I possibly be at peace with all that is going on at this point in history?

As a Black American woman and member of a segment of the US population who are also profiled, harassed and killed by police at a similar rates to our male counterparts albeit not as wide publicized,  what could be tempering fear in me?

My work. My day-to-day influence and impact on the very stories that plaster our headlines and bring us to our knees. My unrelenting commitment to transform local government. My objective to change the world, one relationship at a time. All this is literally saving my sanity and keeping me going.

With over 40% of my work focused on local government agencies and municipalities making up a great majority, my work gave me peace last week.  You see, I had the chance to speak to a mayor and few park district executive directors about what's going on in society and how our work to transform workplace cultures in government agencies is more relevant than ever. Police departments and other local government policing agencies are impacted by my work. With every conference and workshop presentation to local government agencies, me and my team are tackling bias, inconsistency and lack of inclusive repeatable processes that make for more inclusive workplaces that lead to more inclusive communities.

Close to 35% of my work is with nonprofit agencies and that also gives me peace. One project I'm working on currently, gives me the chance to assist students in the Oakland public schools and particularly boys of color with understanding and leveraging their strengths and talents. On August 3, I will lead two groups of scholars on the beginning of what I hope will be a life long journey of building on their strengths and formulating their stories versus the stories society may tell them about themselves. By reaching these students at this age - I was over 20 when I first discovered and was tuned into to my strengths - my work is combating the real societal bias against these students by empowering them with their truth.

Waking up Friday and jumping back on calls with my clients, not only soothed my broken heart from all the turmoil, but it gave me the satisfaction that I am contributing to a new narrative in this country both on the micro level with the scholars and on the macro level with my government agency leaders.

Even as I wade through my own personal challenges and often need respite from my own life - I am so grateful I've built a business that provides that for me personally and as a member of our hurting country.