“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; in fact, it is the only thing that ever existed.” -Margaret Mead
Municipal commissions play a n role in the local government process and advise the municipal council in their areas of expertise. The City of Saratoga has a total of seven commissions that serve the community: Heritage Preservation, Library, Parks and Recreation, Planning, Public Art, Traffic Safety, and Youth. These committees are made up of Saratoga residents, and some committees have special criteria for all or some of the members.
Prior to being elected to the city council in 2020, I served on the city planning committee for six years and as vice president from 2018 to 2019. While I have always been very involved in the community and volunteered with local organizations, it took encouragement someone else for me to stand on the planning committee.
Years ago, my sister and I attended a planning committee meeting to express concerns about an agenda item. Deputy Mayor Yan Zhao was serving on the commission at the time, and faced with a difficult decision on this agenda item, she voiced her opinion even though she was on the minority side of the vote. The next time I saw Yan, I shared that although she was disappointed with the outcome, she understood both sides of the issue. This conversation led Yan to believe that I would make a great planning commissioner, so she encouraged me to apply. While I was praised, I initially said no. She went on to encourage me to join the committee on two more occasions. After the third time, I finally agreed to consider it.
I eventually applied and was nominated for my first term on the planning committee in 2014 and again in 2018. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of Saratoga residents on the committee to review over 150 applications. development, contribute to the development of the General Plan, establish many ordinances and much more. Not only did I guide Saratoga’s physical development and learn a lot about city operations, but an invaluable byproduct was that my leadership, communication, and collaboration skills were strengthened by virtue of working with my fellow commissioners, the city council, and community members.
The experience was so rewarding and effective that it led me to serve on the city council, where I continue to positively impact my community in more ways and on a larger scale. While I had no intention of going down this path, I am truly grateful that I did.
So now I’m asking all of you, why don’t you volunteer for a city commission? If you’ve ever considered serving the Saratoga community in this way, please let me encourage you to do so! Take the next step, join a meeting, submit your application and see where the process takes you. If you don’t give it a chance, you’ll never know what a difference you can make to Saratoga and what you can gain from the experience along the way.
Saratoga is currently accepting applications for its youth, library, public art, and parks and recreation committees. For more information and to apply, visit https://www.saratoga.ca.us/331/Vacancies.
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