After graduating from college and moving away from the East Coast for the first time in 2001, I spent five years working and traveling around the world, from investment banking in London to teaching in Japan to coaching hockey and working as a bicycle messenger in New Zealand. In addition to a plethora of amazing life experiences, it also helped me understand that quality of life is too important to sacrifice and that I wanted to belong to a community that shared a passion and high value for the outdoors. I found this in Ketchum after moving there in 2006, sight unseen. In this small mountain town, I found residents from a variety of backgrounds, differing demographics that all found their way here in order to enjoy a place where you know the name of the six-year old on one side of you on the chairlift and the 70-year old on the other.
From 2007 to 2010 I covered city politics for the local newspaper, then making the switch to executive director of the Ketchum Community Development Corporation in order to move from a necessary impartiality to a position where I could make more of a direct impact on the issues that I had come to know so well. These have included the creation of affordable housing, new downtown infrastructure, and the founding of the Ketchum Innovation Center, a hub for entrepreneurship that includes a business incubator and a robust mentorship program leveraging the incredible intellectual talent in the area to help startups.
All of this time in City Hall allowed me to bear witness to the challenge elected officials face in engaging the public and encouraging participation. To be frank, it's a daunting job to convince people in this day and age to come spend three hours in council chambers, especially when jobs, family and the great outdoors are all calling for attention. With newsletters, email blasts, Facebook posts and even video streaming, it's clear that city leaders are continually looking for ways to build consensus and solicit feedback to help with the responsibility of representing their constituents. However, there has yet to be a purpose-built application designed to make this interaction quick, efficient and highly valuable as both a source of information and feedback. This is the gap LocalVote looks to fill.
LocalVote, a web and mobile application, will allow city leaders and communities to gauge public opinion through informal polling, as well as inform residents and stakeholders of important issues, and illustrate a community’s stance on the matters that affect them the most through statistics and graphics. To be started in Idaho, this application should be useful for any community looking to connect elected officials and their constituents in a more efficient and expeditious manner.