Law Prof. Running for Local Office

by Jason Paul

Tuesday November 5 is Election Day. Voters in 159 of Connecticut’s 169 towns will be going to the polls to choose the town’s local leadership. The Law School faculty has several people who are involved in local government, one of whom, Professor Peter Kochenburger, is serving his second term on the Mansfield town council and running for a third. He was gracious enough to be interviewed by Pro Se on the upcoming election.

Why did you decide to run for council and what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
I had been serving a long time on the planning and zoning commission that presented a lot of interesting problems, but I was really looking to get more involved in the policy and political side of the town and was approached to run for council. It was an exciting opportunity, and I have been honored to serve. I think my biggest accomplishment, and admittedly an accomplishment for everyone involved, was the successful introduction of Storrs Center, a big expansion of the area around the UConn campus. It isn’t perfect but, given how long it has been in the works, to see it up and running successfully is a credit to everyone involved in town government and with the development agency.

Why does local government matter?
While Washington and, to a lesser extent, Hartford get all the ink, the things with which we interact almost every day – schools, roads, public safety, parks – all flow from the local government. If a town provides quality services, it improves the lives of its residents tremendously. If it can no longer do so that also has a tremendous effect on people lives. Local government is also, quite frankly, somewhere that someone with passion and drive can make the most difference right away.

So what would be your advice for getting involved?
Unfortunately, every town is different. However, broadly speaking, it isn’t too difficult. The place to start is with the local political parties. Every town has both local Democratic and Republican parties, and often times, they are looking for candidates in such a way that simply wanting to run might be enough to have you off and running. However, if things are a bit stiffer in terms of competition, almost all towns have local boards and commissions that decide policy with respect to the environment or the library, etc. My town of Mansfield has 40 boards and commissions. This is a good way to see what life is like in municipal government without committing to it completely. It also isn’t terrible for networking, particularly if you are involved in a smaller, local, practice.

Vote!
Now armed with a little bit of knowledge, go out and vote in this upcoming election. To find out what issues are on your towns ballot, check here. If you are not sure where to vote, you can find that information here. Remember to exercise your voice this November!

For additional information, e-mail the author at jason.paul@uconn.edu with any questions.

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