You either want to serve others or you don’t


The City of Belleville has a problem that really isn’t unique to our community. Belleville has problems finding people who want to serve on its city council.

Local council member Tiffany Hansen Monday unknowingly brought up one of those things that tends to raise my hackles. So did her fellow council mate Steve Scofield. Both wondered what could be done to lure more people into serving on the city council.

Hansen noted other than an $800 annual stipend and free swimming at the local pool there weren’t any other perks to serving on the council. She questioned that, since it is budget time, perhaps something else could be done to make the position more lucrative. Scofield said that maybe if the meetings went from twice a month to once a month more folks would be willing to serve.

This is where it gets personal for me.

For more than 35 years I have covered city council, village boards and local governing bodies in towns of all sizes. The one thing they all have in common is a shortage of people who are willing to serve. That means taking a stand, making sometimes unpopular decisions and yes, even getting your name in the paper.

In addition to covering boards I have served on them. Dozens of them. County boards. City boards. Advisory boards. Economic development, hospital, historical society and library. The list goes on and on. And the one thing every single person had in common with whom I have served is we all wanted to be there and give back to our respective communities.

You can’t entice people to serve with pay, incentives, shortened hours or free trips off the high dive. People serve because they want to give back to their communities. There are basically two kinds of people out there: those who want to give back to their cities and those who don’t.

Take a look at the service organizations and groups and compare how their numbers have dwindled as well. It is usually the same smallish group of people who step up to volunteer for everything.

I don’t buy the statement that “we’re busier now than we’ve ever been.” Every generation has been busy. Sweetening the pot and trying to buy peoples’ service with perks or shiny things cheapens the office.

You either make time to serve or you don’t. You’re either willing to make a difference or you’re not. It’s that simple.

Find your volunteer opportunities here