Entirely East Lansing
By: Andrea Urban
Every two years, the City of East Lansing offers an educational program to citizens interested in learning more about their local government.
The Emerging Leaders of East Lansing is a group of about 20 East Lansing residents, 18 and over, who go through a six-week program about the community and the government.
“One of the major drivers about this program is to get people educated and more knowledgeable about the city,” said Megan Clark, assistant to the city manager.
The application period for this group was in January. It is free. Clark says she reviews the applications based on a person’s city involvement, what they see as their future, and sometimes, how long they have lived in East Lansing.
The city started the program in 2007, but due to some budget constraints and staffing reductions the program ended in 2009. In 2013, the city reinstated the program.
“When George Lahanas came on as city manager, he really wanted to reinstate citizen engagement, community involvement, get more neighborhoods involved, and get people active,” said Clark.
Councilwoman Ruth Beier was a part of the 2013 Emerging Leaders program, which helped her get to her win the 2014 election and get to her position now as a City Council member.
“The program gave me a good grounding in city issues. I think I was more effective in my first year in council because of the program,” said Beier.
The goal for participants is to go on to join a board or commission. Beier is the ideal example of the city resident’s goals.
“Like most of my neighbors, I did a lot of complaining about ‘the city’ whenever things went wrong. Rather than just continuing to whine, I decided to get involved, starting with Emerging Leaders,” said Beier.
Emerging Leaders does accept students in college, usually sophomores and juniors that plan to be in the area a couple more years and have interest in the city itself.
Group members learn a new topic each Thursday night in the two and a half hour sessions.
Session three, on March 19, was about finance. The city’s finance director talked about how the city budgets. The mayor also paid a visit to the group meeting to talk about ballot proposals and what they mean.
“Sometimes when people think government, they think something is going wrong, but at the local level that is where you can make the most direct impact on people,” said Clark.
Pastor Curt Dwyer of the Martin Luther Chapel moved here two years ago, as a newer citizen he joined the 2015 program to gain a better understanding of his city and congregation.
“In my role as one of the pastors in this congregation, I want to be involved in the community. I saw this group as an opportunity to get to know the community a little better, and even some of the potential leaders in this community,” said Dwyer.
The Emerging Leaders of East Lansing is in the process of the program right now and its last meeting will be on April 16. That following week there is a graduation ceremony at the city hall meeting for the members of the program. If you want to be a part of the 2017 group, or have general questions, contact Clark of City Hall at email@example.com.