Want To Make A Difference? Here’s How To Apply To Serve On a City Board Or Commission.

Austin City Hall

Take a moment. Think. What is it you’re passionate about?

What keeps you up at night? What gets you up early, excited to go out there and go do? Which news stories make your blood boil?

Now’s your chance to make a difference… right here in Austin.

Why? Because now is the perfect time to apply to serve on one of the City of Austin’s boards or commissions

What are they?

Our city has dozens of different boards and commissions. They are groups of volunteers who advise and consult City Council on different topics that are important to our community. These include everything from women’s rights, to parks, to LGBTQ issues. 

Some important initiatives that have been led by boards and commissions include:

  • Bringing recycling to all of our city’s parks – Zero Waste Advisory Commission
  • Pushing the City of Austin and the police department to better serve victims of sexual assault – Austin Commission For Women

The workloads vary pretty wildly from commission to commission, but in general, most of them meet about once a month and require some degree of preparation in advance of each meeting. Serving on a board or commission is definitely more than just a casual commitment . It requires some work, but it can also come with a lot of influence and the ability to make real change in the local community.

How to apply

Members of the boards/commissions are typically chosen by City Council and the mayor (and sometimes by other commissions or local community groups). Council members generally choose people who live in their district (but not always). 

Can’t remember which district you live in? You can look it up here (just scroll down to the little blue bar that says “District Lookup”.)

District Lookup

Interested in applying? Here are some tips:

  1. Look through this list of vacancies to see which boards/commissions have openings. Simply select the board/commission that you’re interested in, then click on the member roster to see if the opening is held by your City Council member. If so, click on the “Apply” button and fill out the application.
  2. Disappointed because your City Council member has already appointed someone? Don’t give up just yet. Sometimes Council members will appoint someone from outside their district if a seat has been open for a while or if they simply can’t find anyone in their district to fill the slot. In other, words, it doesn’t hurt to apply! Another option is to check and see when the commissioner from your district’s term is going to expire. If it’s coming up soon, it might be worth reaching out to your Council member to let them know you’re interested when the position becomes available.
  3. Although it’s not required, after filling out an application online, it helps to send your Council member (and their staff) an email expressing your interest in the position and even asking for a meeting (especially if you’ve never met your Council member before). Want to be even more effective? After filling out the application and sending an email, give the office a phone call. They get a lot of emails in a day, so calling as well just ensures that you definitely get on their radar.

Not quite sure if serving on a board/commission is the thing for you? Try it out first! Attend a few meetings of the board/commission that you’re interested in and maybe even reach out to one of the current commissioners and pick their brain a bit about what it’s actually like to serve. All of the board/commission members’ contact information is available on this website. 

PS – Don’t know how to contact your Council member? There are a few ways.

1. Send an email via the city’s website.

2. Reach out to your Council member’s individual staffers here:

3. Call your Council member by calling 3-1-1 and ask to be connected to their office, or call them directly at one of the following numbers:

  • District 1: 512-978-2101
  • District 2: 512-978-2102
  • District 3: 512-978-2103
  • District 4: 512-978-2104
  • District 5: 512-978-2105
  • District 6: 512-978-2106
  • District 7: 512-978-2107
  • District 8: 512-978-2108
  • District 9: 512-978-2109
  • District 10: 512-978-2110

 

PPS – One last disclaimer.

Of course, serving on a board or a commission is not a cure-all way to get everything you want done in local government… and there are many other ways to have an impact on the local level. However, boards and commissions are one solid option to both begin pushing for change, and to learn how our government system operates.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and apply!

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