Mini Law School: How to Have Your Voice Heard in Your Community

How to Apply to Boards and Commissions, Running for Municipal Office and Board Service 101

“We would love to see all of you run for something,” said Kathy Hart, Webster Groves City Council member, one of three women heading this week’s forum on holding public office.

Hart, Genevieve Frank, administrator for the St. Louis County Council, and Joan Swartz, former board member for the Metropolitan Sewer District, talk about the ins and outs of serving.

Running for public office can be overwhelming, but there are resources to help guide you through what is ultimately a very rewarding experience, they said, even if you end up losing.

“You don’t have to be ultra-connected to be successful in running a campaign,” they advise.

“I ran for state representative, I lost,” Frank said. “I still think it was a great experience, I met a lot of great people. Don’t let fear of losing keep you from doing it.”

In this podcast, Frank, Hart and Swartz cover everything from meeting constituents for coffee to filling out questionnaires for special interest groups to fundraising. They point to the Pipeline to Public Office, the Sue Shear Institute, and the Missouri Ethics Commission, all of which have resources to guide people through the process of running a campaign.

What’s your message? What do you bring to the table? How are your priorities different than your opponent’s? What makes you stand out? These are the questions the panel urges everyone to consider before running for office. Coming up with a clear message can be harder than it sounds, they said. Also, voters can have very different priorities than candidates. For instance, urban chickens were a big deal to many people when Hart was running for city council.

Other key points discussed in this forum:

  • You don’t have to be a lawyer to run or be successful.
  • Make sure your voter registration is up-to-date.
  • Make sure you’ve paid your taxes.
  • Serving in public office means being quoted by the press.

And finally, there are a huge number of opportunities out there for citizens at large to serve. The governor has more than 200 boards and commissions that he appoints members to, and those governing bodies exist at the county and municipal level as well. Some of them, the panel notes, have a lot of power and make big decisions about allocating resources.

Listen to the podcast here:

Missouri Bar Mini Law School: Board Service 101 – Part 1 [Download]


Missouri Bar Mini Law School: Board Service 101 – Part 2 [Download]


Each lecture and podcast is provided in two, 1-hour segments for easy downloading and listening. This entry completes the entire Spring 2015 six-week lecture series posted as podcasts. Look for future podcast series here on the  

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