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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

New opportunities to get involved in local government emerge this spring

New+opportunities+to+get+involved+in+local+government+emerge+this+spring
Itzie Pulido

Texas State and the city of San Marcos will offer new programs this spring for students and residents to get informed and involved with local government.

The city is introducing San Marcos UniverCity, a seven-week free educational program about San Marcos city government. Each week, the program will focus on a different area of local government such as the library, city council, Planning and Development Services, Neighborhood Enhancement and Police Department.

San Marcos UniverCity will begin on March 28. The application, which requires basic demographic information, must be submitted by March 16. Community Vitality Coordinator Tiffany Harris said she encourages any students interested in local government to apply, as the program is open to everyone.

“The whole reason that we wanted to start the UniverCity was ultimately to bring people in to give them a better understanding of what we do but also look at the other opportunities there are to be more engaged with the city,” Harris said.

Classes will meet weekly on Thursday evenings from March 28 through May 21. The classes’ locations will vary per meeting and showcase various government facilities.

“I would say bring an open mind and an interest and questions and a positive attitude, with a willingness to put aside any kind of preconceived notions and try and just learn,” Harris said. “[We are] trying to give people a well-rounded idea of what [each] department is doing and what they have coming up.”

Robert Eby, a San Marcos resident, attended the UniverCity classes last year and spoke highly of the program and its success.

“I learned so much in the program and I got to rub shoulders with the mayor and the department heads,” Eby said. “Part of the city’s outcome was to get people involved in specific [local government programs] and I myself ended up joining the neighborhood commission.”

In addition, residents can also get involved in the San Marcos Civics Club.

The San Marcos Civics Club, which is a local organization led by Maxfield Baker, a former city councilmember, focuses on fostering community gathering and involvement with local government. Civics Club primarily focuses on making local government information more accessible.

“We’re really focused on issues of access and transparency, focusing on more complicated issues.” Baker said. “Part of the group is also just serving as a place for you to network with other activist-oriented people, but our time as a group is going to be spent focused on these access and transparency issues.”

Outside of joining an organization, Baker recommended students who want to increase civic engagement contact their elected officials and hold them accountable regarding their campaign promises.

“Just figure out one or two city councilmembers that you think would be sympathetic to your issue that you can build a rapport with and use that to leverage these kinds of requests,” Baker said.

Eby said while the UniverCity program was a great experience, he also encourages students to engage with the Civics Club as it will help prepare them to be active in their own government communities no matter where they live post graduation.

For local political opportunities not city-sponsored, students can turn to organizations inside the political science department at Texas State.

Previously, Texas State’s student chapter of the International City Management Association (ICMA), which began in 2016, was another way students could get involved in local government. ICMA helps students get informed about local politics, work on tailoring their resumes for local government positions and contact those who already work in local government.

According to Miha Vindis, ICMA’s faculty adviser, the organization still runs events and workshops but is currently not an official ICMA chapter due to graduation causing a drain of prior student leadership.

Vindis reports there has been progress and that getting the organization back up and running is still a priority.

“The challenge has been getting students to reengage with the organization and take on these leadership roles. And so that’s what we’re working on now,” Vindis said.

For students interested in getting involved in TXST ICMA as it rebuilds, Vindis recommends sending him an email stating their interest so they can stay updated on the program via mailing list.

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