Grapevine on Government: Jodi MacKay, “Reach out to your elected officials. We are here to serve your interests!”
By Emily Kathan
In this issue, Jodi MacKay, counsellor for the Town of Wolfville, shares her insights about political engagement with us.
Grapevine (GV): In your opinion, what barriers exist in understanding how municipal government works? What can be done to overcome these barriers?
Jodi MacKay (JM):
Education – We don’t talk politics to our children, and when we do it has a tendency to be negative. Our kids then have the opinion that politics is bad and may disengage and not know how to vote or what to vote for when it’s their turn. This one is somewhat easy to change, if we can agree it’s needed. Even if we aren’t happy with the decisions, stating that its OK that we don’t, and why. Then always reference that it’s my right to vote for change if I’m not happy. My family had an interest in politics, so we were always told to vote, and if you don’t, you have no voice so don’t complain! It is amazing how many people don’t vote, and sometimes it’s because they believe everyone feels the way they do so they forfeit their vote. As we have learned over the last year, this isn’t true. Please vote!
Engagement and Time – We tend to only get involved in the things that might be of interest to us. We rarely stop to take the whole picture into account. Find out where to find your town information, and subscribe to your community/town newsletter. Take a few minutes to read the agenda and minutes of each meeting. If something catches your attention, take the time to read about the topic in the agenda packages. If that isn’t enough, reach out to your elected officials or town staff. We are here to serve your interests!
GV: What is something you’ve learned, or think differently about, since you began working in government?
JM: I knew it took time, but I had no idea how much. We are sent packages of hundreds of pages to read before discussions. There are so many ways to look at one thing, and sometimes we only focus on our own view point. I also didn’t think I would wrestle with myself so often. Weighing options can take its toll and give me sleepless nights!
GV: What got you interested in working in government?
JM: I was looking for a way to get truly immersed in my community. I love my town. I’m not from here, but I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. I like to think I can help be part of the solutions to our challenges and a piece of something that makes us better.
GV: What advice do you have for (young) people interested in getting more involved in government and politics?
JM: Ask questions, reach out to someone who you know is involved. Get involved in your school politics, it’s a great place to start. Volunteer or sit in to listen on a board that interests you – it’s a great place to learn roles and responsibilities and see how motions get brought to the floor and how discussion can ensue and lead to a decision. Communities have lots of subcommittees of council, so start there and see where it will take you!