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Lynn City Hall.
Depending on who is doing the talking, an overlooked grassroots movement gave Donald Trump the presidency and another, louder groundswell is going to battle him every step of the way throughout his tenure.
The lesson to be learned from those opposing viewpoints is that now is the time for residents across the North Shore and the nation to get involved in government at its most basic level. Town elections and Town Meetings loom on the horizon with spring the traditional busy time for many town governments.
Every local election cycle sees long-time incumbents decide their passion for politics has waned and their days of spending evenings at meetings have reached their end. Every cycle sees passionate newcomers with ideas for changing the world step into the political arena and run for office.
Lynn, Revere, Peabody and other area cities will see voters decide the fate of elected officials in the fall. But town residents interested in serving their community typically mark April on the calendar and start campaigning for town office now.
Residents who want to help shape debate on town concerns don’t have to set their sights on School Committee or the Board of Selectmen to make a difference. Every town has an array of boards and committees that play advisory roles in shaping long-term plans and tackling specific projects.
Not everyone succeeds in politics by starting at the bottom and working up. But volunteer committees are the places where residents demonstrate their ability and tenacity to work in a group setting shaping the debate over important town topics.
More than a few local town boards are moribund bodies populated by the same members for years, even decades. These committees and boards need shaking up and they can benefit from new perspectives.
No one volunteers for the first time for a town board with expertise and experience in town government unless they have previously worked in the public policy arena. There are only two requirements for working on a town committee: An interest in learning about challenges and problems facing the community and an ability to work with others.
Town Meeting this spring is sure to take on an added significance as the purest form of democracy. People gather, debate, vote and adjourn agreeing to disagree. It can’t get much more democratic than Town Meeting.
As the nation adjusts to a new national normal and an upheaval in the political landscape, it is worth thinking about the elemental way Massachusetts’ smallest communities, including Nahant, have tackled public policy not for years, not decades, but for centuries. The results of countless hours of hard works by generations of volunteers who dared to be ridiculed, criticized as well as praised in public life have not always been perfect. But the people who make town government work have displayed a passion mirroring the zeal of the nation’s founders.