Every morning here in Tullahoma, our children get on buses, hop in the car, or walk to school. Some are enthusiastic, and others do it begrudgingly, but they all sit in our classrooms for the next several hours of their day. The adults, get in their cars and drive to work, the grocery store, or run other daily errands that need to be done around town. Our coffee and donut shops, gas stations, and the local Hardee’s serve as a watercooler where we all gather together to talk about the latest happenings around town. In the evenings, we take our children to sports, dance and music practices, we walk the greenway, head to the movies, or Steak Night at London’s. This is what daily life looks like here in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
That portrait of local life is, however not what we see when we turn on CNN or Fox News or browse the latest posts on Facebook or Twitter. Those national and social media outlets paint a much more dreary picture, pitting left versus right, politician against citizen, and citizen against citizen. It is easy to listen to these news sources and feel like the world is going to end and that there is nothing we can do about it. We know that is not true.
Those reading this have most likely interacted with me either in person or on social media. Just as everyone else, I too hold my own strong opinions on national and state-wide politics. That, however, is not the topic of this post. While federal and state-wide politics are important, those are not the issues, nor the elections that have the most direct impact on your everyday life. Those are not the issues that take into consideration the scenario that I illustrated at the beginning of this article.
Taking a look back at the scene I painted at the start, everything from the kids going to school, to the greenways that you walk on, to the facilities your kids practice baseball on to the roads you drive on are all influenced and impacted by our local school board, Board of Mayor and Alderman, planning commissions and city administrators. All positions that are directly affected by your vote at the local level.
I am a data nerd. There, I said it out loud. I have started analyzing some data in preparation for a possible big announcement in May. Specifically, I am interested in the number of people who vote in the off-year municipal elections, namely Alderman and Board of Education. 11,502 citizens are registered and qualified to vote in Tullahoma City elections. The past two municipal elections (205 & 2017), a mere 1,591 (13%) of those citizens voted.
National and State elections get all of the attention. Local voter turnout during these elections rises to between 34% and 37%, which is still a dismal number, but higher than in our local elections. Pew Research did a study in March of 2016, that found that 1 in every 6 Americans who said they voted, did not actually vote! The local elections are the most neglected but are actually the elections where your vote has the most significant impact on your daily life. Every single year, you have the opportunity to take to the polls and have a say as to where your tax dollars are spent and how our community is run.
Need that pothole you hit every day on your way to work fixed? How about sidewalks so your children get safely to and fro or you can safely enjoy your evening run? These are all issues that are handled by the local government. These are all issues that you can take to the ballot box and choose the person who will take action.
In local elections, we can put aside Republican and Democrat and think as neighbors. We can focus on what is essential in our community and making changes that will immediately have an impact on your daily life. Your national political affiliation does not prevent you from being an active member of the community who reaches out to neighbors and being a leader who makes a difference locally.
Benjamin Franklin as he walked down the steps of Liberty Hall, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy?” to which Franklin replied, “A Republic if you can keep it.” The only way to keep our Republic is by using our voice and taking control of our communities. Our freedoms and quality of life revolve around not just voting, but using our votes to chose those who will govern us wisely.
Not registered to vote? It has never been easier to do so in Tennessee: https://ovr.govote.tn.gov/
Want to get involved in local government and have your voice heard? Attend any of the public meetings: