Share Tweet Share Email

Upcoming panel discussions examine impact of local elections

March 1, 2021

The November general election may be over, but the work of NIU’s Democracy Challenge committee continues as the local election cycle is underway. To encourage Huskies to remain engaged in the democratic process, the committee has planned three virtual panel discussions that will explore a range of topics related to local elections and government.

“Local elections are just as important as national elections,” said Chief of Staff Matt Streb, who leads the university’s Democracy Challenge initiative to encourage Huskie participation in local, state and national election cycles.

“In many cases, decisions made at the local level have a more significant impact on our day-to-day life than those made at the national level,” continued Streb. “It’s important that Huskies understand how decisions made by local officials impact their lives and that they actively participate in electing the officials who make these decisions.”

To further explore the importance of local elections, Streb will moderate a virtual panel discussion on Thursday, March 4 from 7 to 8 p.m. He’ll be joined by Director of NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies Greg Kuhn and Professor of Public Administration Kurt Thurmaier to discuss why local elections matter. The discussion will examine important key issues in local elections, explain how local elections differ from state and national elections, address why certain offices are elected and explore the role partisanship plays in local government.

The discussion of local government will continue on Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m., when Julie Ann O’Connell, assistant director of NIU’s Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies, moderates a discussion about the roles and responsibilities of school boards and the dynamics of school board elections. She’ll be joined by Scott Campbell, a teacher from Rochelle Township High School and DeKalb County Board member, and Jason Klein, director of NIU’s P-20 Initiatives.

“I’m looking forward to moderating this panel,” said O’Connell. “I hope participants will gain an appreciation for the important work school boards contribute to their communities and a better understanding of the impact school boards’ decision-making has on students, community members and taxpayers.”

The impact of local decision-makers on community members and taxpayers will be further explored on Thursday, March 18. Presidential Teaching Professor Laura Vazquez will moderate a final panel discussion at 7 p.m. that examines the direct connection between local government, local economies and quality of life.

Vazquez will be joined by NIU’s Chief Engagement Officer Rena Cotsones, Barsema Professor of Social Entrepreneurship Christine Mooney, and NIU Public Administration Alumnus Jim Morrison, a former city manager of Hoffman Estates and current consultant at NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies.

“Presidential elections get a lot of attention while local city council members are sometimes elected by a handful of voters,” said Vazquez. “These panelists will explain why it is just as important—if not more so—to pay attention to what happens close to home as it is to what is happening in Washington, D.C.”

More information about these events and resources about local elections are available by visiting the Huskies Vote website.