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Take a Seat at the Table 

Group Of People Discussing

City boards and commissions offer opportunities to get involved.

It takes a village to run a city the size of Columbia. If city employees and elected officials were the only people involved in getting things done, the perspectives, experience, and input of a lot of other people in the community wouldn’t have a voice.  

Great towns offer their residents seats at tables where decisions are made that affect everyone. After all, the more diverse the community, the more diverse representation needs to be. That’s why Columbia’s city government has more than fifty boards and commissions always looking for citizens willing to take those seats and help make the city the best it can be.  

Indulge Your Passion or Your Expertise  

The array of boards and commissions means there is something to suit just about everyone’s interests and passions. And working on something you’re passionate about while serving the community is what drives some people to apply to serve.  

Take Tommy Fieser. He is a self-employed handyman and entrepreneur with a passion for bicycles. After applying to serve on the Bicycle/Pedestrian Commission, the city council appointed him to a three-year term that began in July 2022.  

Tommy Fieser
Tommy Fieser

“I love bicycles. And specifically, e-bikes,” Fieser says. “Of course, I still love my acoustic bicycle, too, and believe it’s important to maintain safe pathways for all bikes and pedestrians.”  

In fact, that is the role this commission plays. It’s comprised of nine city council-appointed community members plus a representative of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. Members are charged with developing a master bike plan for the city which involves grant applications, bicycle use and safety programs, and addressing issues related to sidewalks, walkways, and trails.  

“The experience has shaped me a bit,” Fieser says. “It has been really very interesting getting to know all about the city’s budgets and sidewalk master plan. I’ve helped with a safety audit, and it’s been a fun learning experience.”  

There’s Something for Everyone  

The boards and commissions are broadly categorized under specific umbrellas, including economic development, community development, health and human services, law, sustainability, cultural affairs, parks and recreation, convention and visitors bureau, finance, public works, human resources, and utilities.

Some boards are under the purview of the city manager or city clerk and others are appointed by the city council. On some, community representatives serve in an advisory capacity while on others, they have more decision-making authority.  

For example, members of the Finance Advisory and Audit Committee make recommendations to the city council on various financial matters. On the other hand, the five appointed members of the Loan and Grant Committee review loan terms, requirements, and applications for the city’s housing programs. They also make decisions on all these matters, including which applications are accepted and which are not.  

In many cases, qualifications to serve are only being a resident and registered voter of Columbia. However, some require a knowledge of or interest in matters related to the commission or board. Others require specific professional expertise or experience.  

“If you are considering joining a commission or board, I would say to be specific about your specialties, niche, or relevance in that area,” Fieser says. “Show your expertise. And if you feel like you’re not too knowledgeable in something, share how passionate and excited you are about the subject.”  

Sign Me Up  

You can check out a list of boards and commissions on the city’s website, at como.gov/boards. There’s information about what each one does, when it meets, how the board is comprised, a list of current members, and who appoints them to serve.  

The city advertises vacancies and invites residents to apply by specific deadlines on the city’s website (como.gov/vacancies), in newspaper ads, and in the newsletter that accompanies your utility bill. There’s also always word of mouth.  

“My friend from college told me about it and I applied because I thought it would be an excellent way to participate and make a change in the community that I live in,” Fieser adds.  

You can complete an application online, specifying which board or commission you wish to serve on, and submit it electronically. Or you can print a pdf version of the application, fill it in, and either mail it to or drop it off at the city clerk’s office.  

For Fieser, serving is a fulfilling experience. Although he hasn’t decided whether he will reapply to serve on the Bicycle/Pedestrian Commission when his term ends in July 2025, he is eyeing other rings he might want to throw his hat into.  

He explains, “I would highly suggest serving on a commission or board because it is a fun social experience where you get to gather with like-minded individuals to advise and participate in relevant decisions in our own town.”

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