Greetings, Goshen College! I’m writing as an alumnus of Goshen College and immediate past mayor of the city of Goshen. It was humbling, but a great honor to have Goshen’s voters, including those from Goshen College, allow me to put into action the Goshen College motto, “Culture for Service”, for a little over 19 years in the position of mayor.
Currently, all the oxygen is being sucked out of the room talking about the 2020 Presidential Election. And with valid reason. People on both sides of a great divide are emotional in their support of, or opposition to, President Trump’s leadership. Depending on who’s doing the arguing, it has great positive or alarming negative consequences for our nation and the world. Your influence on next year’s election matters. I hope you’ll vote.
While there is a major focus on the 2020 election, there is one this year right here in Goshen that can have important consequences in other ways. It is a local election only, with mayor, clerk-treasurer and city council positions on the ballot. In fact, one name on the ballot is Gilberto Perez, Goshen College’s vice president of student life. He is running unopposed, and will serve Goshen’s southern district.
Several other positions are contested. There have been a number of Goshen College graduates who have served Goshen as elected officials.
Why should a local election matter to Goshen College students?
When I was mayor, one of my favorite opportunities was welcoming new students to Goshen College. Every year, I reminded them that not only was the Goshen College campus their new home, but so, also, was our wider community. I encouraged them to adopt it as their own and care for it as much as they care for the college campus. Become integrated in the life of Goshen. Enjoy a vibrant downtown with unique shops and ethnic restaurants. Explore our well developed bike and pedestrian greenway trails system. Celebrate the richness of inclusiveness and diversity. Become emotionally connected. And join the rest of Goshen in being stewards of the wider community just as you care for the college community. The “town and gown” relationship between college and community has become much richer thanks to integration by Goshen College faculty, staff and students.
In my welcome each year to new students, I also commented that many of you came to Goshen not expecting to spend more than your college years here. But many have stayed to live their careers here. And many have returned to Goshen after years of volunteer service, or working in other places. The number of Goshen alums who are, or have become teachers, principals, superintendents, college professors, college presidents, nurses, doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, CEOs, not-for-profit managers, computer programmers, trades people, small and large business owners — even local elected officials — is more than impressive. It is phenomenal. Goshen College grads are a significant part of the lifeblood of Goshen. This could be you, too.
The adage “all politics is local” isn’t just words on paper. Local government is closest to the people. Local-elected officials determine the quality of police, fire and ambulance services. They determine quality of streets, drinking water, sewer services, brush and leaf pickup, park and recreation opportunities, development of bike and pedestrian paths, environmental efforts, openness to diversity and inclusiveness of community, and a myriad of other resident services. And one vote never counts more than in a local election, because there are fewer votes. Elections in Goshen have been won or lost by as few as two votes! It is harder to say, “my vote doesn’t matter,” because, well, it may.
So care enough about the kind and quality of the community in which you now reside, and in which you may live out your careers, to vote in the upcoming city election, Tuesday, Nov. 5.
But first, you have to be registered to vote in Elkhart County. You may already have seen on campus some voter registration tables. There will be more. But time is short, as the deadline to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 7. Out-of-county or out-of-state registered voters may register to vote here. You will be asked where you are currently registered, so you can’t vote in two places. You will not be asked party preference. In Indiana, one doesn’t register as a Democrat, Republican or anything else. One only registers as a voter. If, after Goshen’s election, you would prefer to change back to where you were registered prior, you may transfer your registration there.
To vote in Goshen’s election, you must live inside city limits. You may live on or off campus. You must be a citizen of the United States, either born here or naturalized. You will need an Indiana state or federal-issued photo ID. A passport, Indiana driver’s license or military ID qualify. An out-of-state driver’s license, Goshen Resident or Goshen College ID do not qualify. If you have no qualifying photo ID, you may go to the Goshen office of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and get a state issued photo ID. This is not a driver’s license. It is free if you say it is for voting purposes. Otherwise it is a few dollars.
Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something in between, I hope you will take your right to vote seriously. Do what you can to help shape not only your country, but also your closer community.