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Just Because You Aren’t An Elected Leader Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Make a Difference

Laurie Seeman

Photo: County of Rockland

by Kayla Sharp

I want to congratulate all the candidates who won their races Tuesday night–and also those who lost.

Thank you for rising to the challenge.  Thank you for stepping into the ring. Running for public office is an enormous feat.  An incredible amount of work and time is spent vying for a low paying, often thankless job. Meanwhile, they are responsible for threading difficult needles: How to provide more services without raising taxes? How to balance a budget during a pandemic? No matter what, our leaders won’t make everyone happy. That’s the job. It ain’t pretty, but these public servants show up, and they do their best. Anyone who signs up for these gigs has my deep appreciation and respect.

That said, the success or failure of a county, town, or village shouldn’t (and doesn’t) rest solely on the shoulders of our elected officials. As citizens, the successes and failures of a community fall on our shoulders as well.

When we see deficits in our towns and write to our representatives, when we organize fundraising events for our local nonprofits, or food drives for our less fortunate, we become active, important parts of our community. Local government is important for sure, and should never be discounted, but villages are built and sustained by the people who live there, work there, and are passionate about keeping their homes alive and thriving. No mayor has all the answers. No county executive solves every problem. And they can’t do their best without the rest of us.

Here in my adopted village of Nyack, The Nyack Skatepark, The Nyack Halloween Parade, The Great Nyack Get-Together, as well as many other projects, were spearheaded not by the local government officials, but by private citizens with an idea and an urge to make things better. When Nyack needed a fundraising arm for projects in the park, The Nyack Parks Conservancy was created–again, by private citizens trying to help and create positive change in our community. When increased attendance at local food banks increased in our area, The Nyack Hunger Coalition was created to boost their fundraising and add necessary programs. The list goes on and on: Keep Rockland Beautiful, Soup Angels, The Nyack Homeless Project, The Garden Club of Nyack… I could fill pages with the amazing work of volunteers and non-electeds, but you get the idea. These efforts are pure resident involvemen, and they are the lifeblood of a healthy community.

We can all be part of positive change. We can all do better for our communities. We can all be the change we want to see in the world.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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