“How do we get rid of the ‘old boys club?” was the first question posed at Sunday’s Run, Serve, Lead!
conference hosted by North Coast People’s Alliance to educate residents about becoming involved in the political landscape.
The alliance grew out of the local efforts to elect Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sander to office.
The event’s panel included College of the Redwoods Trustee Danny Kelley, Arcata Mayor Sofia Pereira, Ferndale City Councilman Patrick O’Rourke, former Supervisor Clif Clendenen and immigration rights activist Renee Saucedo, who each shared their unique experiences and thoughts on local government.
“Forget about the good old boys,” advised Kelley, who defeated a nearly two-decade incumbent in November to take a seat on the college board. “Do what you think is right.”
Pereira gave the keynote speech at the event, which focused on how to prepare for mounting an election campaign or working on one, noting that everyone has “different experiences that are valuable to local government.”
“What’s that fire in your belly? What brought you here?” she asked the crowd of more than 100 gathered in the Multi-Generational Center in Fortuna.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Saucedo urged those in attendance to take the responsibility of governance into their own hands.
“The most meaningful change happens in this country when everyday people organize around issues they deeply care about,” she said.
O’Rourke agreed, saying involvement in local government starts with figuring out what talents and capabilities one has that can be useful to their community.
“It’s something you do from the heart,” he said.
Clendenen, meanwhile, also noted that the lack of depth many people have about the workings of their local government can be shocking.
“It’s a steep learning curve,” he said. “It makes for a better democracy when people understand their government.”
The alliance distributed information packets about how to become more involved, which are available online at northcoastpeoplesalliance.org.
NCPA Vice Chair and event coordinator Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg said the main aim was to encourage Humboldt residents to get involved, whether that means a full-fledged bid for office, a part-time role on a campaign or a couple hours a week of phone banking.
“If you have an hour or two, whatever time you’ve got, there’s something you can do,” she said.