We Should Focus on Local Politics

Photo courtesy of fairfaxva.gov


National politics can be quite the spectacle. There’s never a shortage of intrigue when it comes to Washington D.C. There’s always a scandal to be found, legislation to be considered or any other manner of political development.

It’s no surprise that since I work in politics, people often come to me wanting to discuss whatever hot-button issue is in the headlines that day. I’ll usually indulge whoever is asking, but national politics honestly bores me. Not because of lack of interest, but because it’s not where I think the focus should be. National politics often makes great political theater, but very little of it actually affects anyone’s day to day. For that, I turn to local politics.

Many people look past local politics, often believing entities like the Board of Supervisors are only full of people either looking to get started climbing the political ladder or argue petty politics all day. I will not deny that there may be some truth to that claim, but local politics is so much more than that. Local supervisors are the ones in the best position to directly benefit one’s community.

Take an issue that many students can relate to—lack of housing. The zoning process for housing developments is handled by the county or city government. The person best suited to help with most local issues isn’t a congressman or senator, but a councilman or supervisor.

One of the largest issues facing college students and non-college students alike is the economy. While much of the country remains focused on the ongoing conflict with the federal budget, the local economy should not be ignored. Our local economy is quite important.  

The DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) region remains one of the largest and most prosperous in the nation, which impacts Mason students. As local counties grow and attract more jobs, it is much easier for students to find jobs when they transition into the workforce. Local government has a hand in this. Through economic incentives, the Board of Supervisors can help foster economic growth in their county. Counties like Prince William continue to offer competitive property tax rates that help encourage growth.  Ultimately, the local economy is one that impacts us the most, so we should look towards our local government.

Lastly, local officials are much more in tune with local issues and easier to contact. An average congressional district has around 711,000 people in it. That’s a lot of constituents who have to be represented. Contrast that with a supervisor who only has a small portion of a county to represent. Since they only represent several precincts in a county, there is ample opportunity for supervisors to get involved in their neighborhoods and interact with their constituents, and supervisors are often willing to listen. Within the last week, Dr. Stephen Fuller, who is a part of the Mason faculty in the Schar School of Policy and Government, was able to give a presentation to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. It is evident that the Mason community can have a significant impact on local policy.

While it may seem like politics primarily revolves around D.C., know that policies and people who truly benefit a community often don’t come from an office on the hill, they come the local areas that live and serve in your own neighborhood.