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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Columbia College students find city commission positions rewarding

By Robert Schmidt

Two students at Columbia College currently participate in local government by sitting on commissions.  It’s a process that can be long but can be open to anyone depending on which commission a person joins.
Amber Franz, senior, is a member of the Community Development Commission (CDC).  She said she did not get onto the first commission she applied for, but managed to get onto CDC this fall.  “My boyfriend got an e-mail from his political party encouraging citizens to join local committees and commissions,” Franz said. After reading the e-mail, Franz said she went to the Columbia city Web site and filled out an application for several committees that had listed vacancies and heard back a few weeks later. 
“We make recommendations to city council about development and funding,” Franz said.  “We create a five-year-plan and try to implement changes,” Franz said, adding that a term is only three years.  Some requirements to participate on certain commissions are listed, such as being a registered voter in Boone County or being a resident of a certain district.
Though they are supposed to have meetings every month, Franz said it really only happens about six times a year, but a lot of reading is required.  Two 300-page packets were supplied to her before the first meeting on Nov. 11, which explained the function of the commission and how it was run.
Senior Mike Yoakum has served on the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission since Oct. 2004 and as chairman of the board since 2007.  He said he was recommended for the position by Jeff Harris, a former state legislator from Columbia.  The position was designated for students from Columbia who are under 25.  After filling the position as an interim for a year, he was re-appointed for a full three-year term, he said.  Last year, he was reappointed again to one of five general interest positions for another three years. 
Yoakum said there are 10 members on his board: five general interest positions, one student, one representative from the University, one from Columbia Public Schools, one from the police department and one healthcare professional.  “[We] have had input into a lot of decisions such as the Columbia Public Schools drug taskforce’s recommendations, the Minor-in-Possession-by-Consumption ordinance and the DARE program,”  Yoakum said.
Both Franz and Yoakum said they would recommend that other students apply for city commissions.  “I think if students have an opportunity to serve and can dedicate the time needed to do so, it is a great opportunity,” Yoakum said.

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