I don’t know how this happened but all 31 days of July have wrapped! I have less than an hour before it is midnight and suddenly August hits me. In some ways July was long. I can tell you about each week and what the big topic of the week was just by mentally rolling through it. I have thousands of pictures sitting on my camera to document it but not posted here! For more timely pictures and updates, follow along to my Instagram, Facebook and I’m even on…dare I say it, Snapchat now. Find me: katpinke.
July’s highlights were Anika’s birthday, moving Hunter to UND, Lions All-Star basketball for Hunter, Elizabeth to basketball camp with her friend, our county fair, taking Anika and Elizabeth to 4-H camp, a night of camping at Fort Lincoln, swimming lessons, a little time for farming with my parents and family and final details for the third annual CommonGround North Dakota Banquet in a Field.
In the middle of the month, I also accepted a new job with Agweek which I start in a week. Thanks for the kind comments and messages about this new chapter. It means a lot to me to have a positive circle online and offline that encourages and gives me pep talks!
Below is my column for this week. My August will kick off with a local city council meeting. This column discusses the need for you and me, our spouses, family and friends to all pitch to do our part to serve our communities, counties and regions.
In June, I was elected to a four-year term on the Wishek City Council. Why me? I’ve asked that myself a few times. Why run? Win or lose, it’s my turn to serve in my city.
My campaigning consisted of walking around our town of 1,000 with another candidate, a fellow mom and friend who ran for an open two-year term. Together, we knocked on doors, visited with residents and shared my mom’s homemade Norwegian heritage cookies. We pulled the cookies in a red wagon—and they were a hit. I think a red wagon full of cookies will be my signature campaign effort should I choose to run again for office in Wishek.
I ran for city council because I believe our communities need a next generation willing to serve. I will listen to constituents and work to continue to move our city forward. I can’t preach and teach it if I’m not living it. Both my husband and I make serving on two local boards and our community volunteer roles a priority.
I recently attended my first training for elected officials with 135 others (city council and park board members, commissioners and mayors) from around North Dakota. The event was hosted by the North Dakota League of Cities. I saw others, such as my husband and myself, willing to serve. They had taken time off from their jobs and businesses in the middle of the week, and many drove hundreds of miles to be in Bismarck for an intensive all-day training. They represented communities of 60 people to 60,000 people or more.
Our son, Hunter, was part of the parliamentary procedure team that represented North Dakota at the National FFA Convention this past fall. He spent hours and hours practicing and read 600 pages of Robert’s Rules of Order. In the “how to properly run a meeting” session at the elected officials training, I was reminded how thankful I am our kids are taught how to run a meeting in FFA and 4-H.
At each session, whether it was on parliamentary procedure, ordinances, open records and meetings, budgeting or special assessments, I listened and learned. I feel more prepared to be a public servant and more willing to serve my community. I’m excited to give a report at our next city council meeting about the training. And I know the notes I took at the training are now considered public record!
My greatest takeaway from the day was every community experiences an “upset apple cart” at times. Every town has drama, issues and problems. Almost all of the cities in North Dakota with energy and ag economies have budget shortfalls since those two industries are down.
It is how you respond in tough times that make communities great. Budgets are a lot easier when times are great. But communities are still great in lean economic times when people are willing to serve.
At the training, it was obvious everyone desires a progressive, vibrant community, regardless of the size of the population. The leaders want to effectively serve and follow laws, policies and procedures. They are willing to learn from others to make their communities better for the future.
I visited with a couple of older widowed women who serve on the city council for their very small community. It reminded me no matter what stage of life we’re in, we can serve and give back. You have to make time to serve. The truth is, none of us really have time. We all can fill our time with jobs, tasks, hobbies or the latest Pokémon Go rage.
I’ve heard my generation say, “I don’t have time,” and an older generation say, “It’s time for the younger people to do it now.” Both are right.
My generation needs to step up—but we still need an older generation, such as the women I met, to give of their time and continue to be willing to serve. It’s a combination of generations that will move our cities forward. We need collaboration, consistency and communication across all who serve. As one of the speakers said, “Democracy is a contact sport.” It’s not easy. But locally, in your community and county such as mine, you have to be willing to serve or we aren’t going to survive. It’s that simple.
Public service is not flashy. It takes time. It takes your commitment and my commitment. We won’t all agree, but we will serve in the best interest of our citizens.
If you are willing to serve, there’s a civic, school or church organization in your town, county or region waiting for you to step up and volunteer. If not you, who?