Editor’s Note: For the Local Government issue of Topology, we interviewed individuals who have been involved in local government in and around Three Rivers, Michigan, where most of the Topology editorial staff live. This week, meet Carolyn McNary, Fourth District Commissioner for the City of Three Rivers, pictured in the Commission Chamber of City Hall.
Local government resume
I was asked by a Democratic Party member to join the party, and so I did around 2005 or 2006. I became a precinct delegate and then was elected to be Party Chair for two years. During that time, a group from the George Washington Carver Center approached me and asked if I would run for the school board. I have also been the City Commissioner for fourth district since 2008.
Other civic involvement
In 2008, I started working for Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services (DASAS) and became involved with some other groups like the St. Joseph County Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, where they elected me president for a two-year term. I was Youth Director at Ambassadors for Christ Church. I was also involved with Safe Kids through the Health Department and Building Strong Youth through the St. Joseph County Intermediary School District (some of these groups don’t exist anymore). I now work full time as a sexual assault and domestic violence advocate for DASAS. I’m vice president of the George Washington Carver Community Center. I’m a Sunday School teacher. I’m a member of the board of the United Community Assistance Program which is through First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers/Centreville. I’m also a board member for the Community Reinvestment Act through Sturgis Bank & Trust.
Why did you run for office?
I ran for office because I was approached by several people while I was involved with voter registration. They asked me to run for the seat for their district, which is fourth district. That was in 2008, and I have been reappointed for every term since then. I ran for commission because, coming from my background, I wanted to draw people like myself to be involved in government.
What is one dream you have for your community in the next five years?
I want our city to wrap around its young community—the young people and the children. I came to Three Rivers as a kid, and there was nothing to do here then. This has been a problem for a long time: my grandchildren and great-grandchildren still face this. I want there to be safe places for activities and for education. I want the city to be more of a mentor to our young people; right now, we’re not [doing that]. Young people need stuff to do, because not everyone can afford the extra-curriculars. The city could even invest in teaching young people about local government. Things like the Huss Project, which is all about family and education—why aren’t things like that being funded?
What is your advice for citizens who wish to influence their local government?
Speak up. Show up. Become involved. If you’re a citizen, be proud of that, and be proud of the place where you are. Know that you belong there, and that you can make a difference. That’s why voter registration is so important to me—your voice matters!