“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
City commissions play an n role in the local government process and advise the city council in their areas of expertise. The City of Saratoga has a total of seven commissions that serve the community: the heritage preservation, library, parks and recreation, planning, public art, traffic safety and youth commissions. These commissions are made up of Saratoga residents, and some commissions have special criteria for all or some of the members.
Before being elected to the city council in 2020, I served on the city’s planning commission for six years and as vice chair from 2018 to 2019. While I had always been very involved in the community and volunteered with local organizations, it took encouragement from someone else for me to apply to the planning commission.
Years ago, my sister and I attended a planning commission meeting to express concerns about an agenda item. Vice Mayor Yan Zhao was serving on the commission at the time, and in the face of a difficult decision on this agenda item, she expressed her opinion, even though she was on the minority side of the vote. The next time I saw Yan, I shared that while I was disappointed with the outcome, I understood both sides of the issue. This conversation led Yan to believe I would make a great planning commissioner, so she encouraged me to apply. While I was complimented, I initially said no. She went on to encourage me to join the commission on two more occasions. After the third time, I finally agreed to consider it.
I ultimately applied and was appointed to my first term on the planning commission in 2014, then again in 2018. Throughout the years, I had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of Saratoga residents on the commission to review over 150 development applications, contribute to development of the General Plan, establish many ordinances and more. Not only did I guide the physical development of Saratoga and learn so much about city operations, but an invaluable byproduct was that my leadership, communications and collaboration skills were strengthened by virtue of working with my fellow commissioners, the city council and community members.
The experience was so rewarding and effective that it led me to serve on the city council, where I continue to positively impact my community in more ways and on a greater scale. While I had no intention of journeying down this path, I am truly grateful I did.
So now I’m asking all of you, why don’t you volunteer for a city commission? If you have considered serving the Saratoga community in this way, please let me be the one who encourages you to go for it! Take the next step, attend a meeting, submit your application and see where the process takes you. If you don’t give it a chance, you will never know what a difference you could make for Saratoga and what you may gain from the experience along the way.
Saratoga is currently accepting applications for its youth, library, public art and parks and recreation commissions. For more information and to apply, visit https://www.saratoga.ca.us/331/Vacancies.