Shafer Leadership and City of Muncie to Offer Free, Online Portal for Municipal Board Service

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By Kate H. Elliott—

MUNCIE, Ind.—“City government belongs to everyone,” said Muncie City Council President Jeff Robinson, “and the only way we can move forward and represent all voices is if everyone who wants a seat at the table, has access.”

City governments — like many organizations — often struggle to find citizens willing to volunteer to serve on boards and commissions. What’s to blame? A lack of awareness about the roles and appointment process, perhaps? Or maybe it’s the monthly meetings and other duties? The barriers are likely different for each person, Robinson said, but the result is that many of Muncie’s 27 city boards and commissions cycle through the same do-gooders willing to serve.

Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour said he agrees: “Finding those willing to serve is the biggest challenge, but your community needs you. It takes all of us, together, to make a difference.”

GoServe your community

Enter GoServe: a free, online database of Muncie residents interested in municipal board service. Those interested in serving on a city board or commission go online to enter their name and relevant knowledge and expertise. Then, appointing bodies review the entries when it comes time to appoint new members to city boards and commissions.

The GoServe database is a partnership between the City of Muncie and Shafer Leadership Academy, a Muncie nonprofit that provides inclusive leadership development for people, organizations and communities. Ridenour said he is excited for the outcomes of this new resource to expand resident participation in city government.

“We are driven to find people interested in serving that may not know of opportunities, to get new people to provide a different thought or “out of the box” thinking,” Ridenour added. “New voices and new eyes often result in better solutions. Engaged and proactive boards create solutions and often will see challenges early. This makes our community better.”

SLA Executive Director Mitch Isaacs said creation of the GoServe portal is a way to move away from board service coming down to “who you know,” within the networks of existing local politicians and board members. “Anyone who is interested has access,” he said. “and we hope this easy-to-use tool will draw more voices to the table.”

Part of push for civic engagement

GoServe builds off of Shafer Leadership’s other efforts to elevate civic engagement, including the Candidates of the Future program — a six-hour workshop open to anyone, regardless of political experience, who has an interest in running for local office and wants to learn more about the campaign process. The program, which started in 2017, has educated hundreds of residents about political engagement. Candidates of the Future is facilitated by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University and co-sponsored by the Muncie Action Plan.

“At Shafer Leadership Academy, we are driven to empower all people to realize their leadership potential,” Isaacs said. “A great way for people to get involved and realize their ability to affect change is through service to their community and the political process.”

Ridenour said the city is grateful for Shafer Leadership’s engagement and support.

“This partnership should help us find people interested in serving,” he added. “Finding those who want to serve helps create engaged, proactive boards and engaged and proactive boards create solutions and often will see challenges early. This makes our community better.”

Resources a click away

Robinson, who serves as SLA development director, said Muncie residents can go to to learn more about each city board and commission. The site lists board and commission members and meeting times. Agendas and meeting minutes are available to download.

To people on the fence about city board service, Robinson, has this to say: “Yes, it takes time and energy, but it’s such an honor and privilege to serve your community. Anything you give is given back to you — twofold — through relationships, education and experience. We can make this city better, together. Go serve.”

Go to to learn more about GoServe and SLA’s range of programs, membership options and upcoming calendar.