Column: Helping Make Democracy Work

Column: Helping Make Democracy Work

My internship in Supervisor Cook’s office.

In recent months, a good deal of attention has been directed towards the ongoing race for the White House. The presidential election season - and the scrutiny surrounding it - may cause one to lose sight of where the power in our democracy really lies -- at the local level. In the past three weeks I have had the privilege of working for Braddock District Supervisor John Cook as a part of the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program. In my time here, I have discovered the true presence of our local government, and I have been able to observe democracy at work in its most effective form.

When something has gone awry in our community, from something as simple as overgrown grass in a neighbor’s yard to large-scale residential flooding as a result of poor construction site drainage, the call comes into this office, not 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When it comes to the everyday issues that affect residents in Fairfax County, such as neighborhood disputes, transportation, and a variety of other public services, local government has a considerable impact on resident lives. In this office I have become cognizant of the fact that true democracy is vested in the echelons of our county government and the citizens who interact with it.

The cohesion between different local government entities is an important factor in local government. The Braddock District office works closely with many other government entities, such as the Park Authority, the Health Department, and many state government bodies to connect residents of the Braddock District to whatever service they require. This level of convenience can help ensure a community that operates very efficiently.

The Fairfax County Youth Leadership program is a terrific opportunity for civic-minded high school juniors to learn the ins and outs of their local government. The program combines informative monthly meetings with lessons about various county departments and services with a summer internship to gain hands-on experience in the daily operation of these county entities.

In my time here in the Braddock District office, I have seen first-hand the impact that a local government has on the community. It acts as a tool for the betterment of the community by its citizens. I would highly recommend the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program as a wonderful way to become engaged in one’s community. The experiences you gain are indispensable. And, as national elections are just around the corner, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of the importance of government at the local level and its influence over our community.