By: Christian Ryan

Parents, professors, community members and mentors are constantly telling students to become involved, aware citizens – always an admirable goal.

However, if students only focus on national level issues, how can they truly become conscientious citizens?

After all, aren’t the problems of your neighbours and friends here on the campus or in the local community more pressing than the constant squabbling of Washington and the party hard-liners (especially in this Presidential election season)?

Of course, the national government has an impact on life in America. But far more important to daily life all across the country, and especially here in Ripon, is the control and governance of local governments – the state legislature, the Fond du Lac County Board and the Ripon City Council.

The Mayor of Ripon, Gary Will, has stressed the importance of small government and small town thinking, pointing out the the decisions made at the local level are much more “down to earth” because the representatives are working for the good of the community, not pushing stringent party lines.

Even the Ripon College Student Senate arguably has more control over the daily happenings of the campus than does the federal government. The problem is that so few regional or local issues extend to the insulated atmosphere of the college that it can be hard to keep track of who the local representatives are, let alone the issues facing those bodies.

First things first, learn who represents you at all levels of government. The Democratic system of representation only works if the constituents 1) know who their representatives are and 2) feel willing and able to contact them on any issues they may have.

Local governments are here to serve. As the College’s own Professor Martin Farrell, also the county board chairman and supervisor for the Ripon area, has proclaimed, “We solve the problems, we provide the services.”

They operate such essential services as the Sheriff ’s department, the local health agencies, road construction and, vital to all residents, snow ploughing — which will be of great use soon enough.

They also take a huge part in economic development. Why ask the federal government for stimulus when Fond du Lac County and the City of Ripon are pressing forward with large projects to promote growth right here near campus — one specifically helped along by Supervisor Farrell that is aimed exclusively at rejuvenating down town Ripon.

So, next time you see something you want changed around you, if you see a cause to stand behind, contact your local representatives and help make the community around you a better place. They are almost always available, and the whole point of their positions are to serve their constituents – use them. Pay attention to what is happening around you, and let governmental involvement begin in your community.

Get out and vote, and make this community a better place.