The Role of Boards and Commissions

Volunteer citizen boards serve an important role in democratic local government. Boards are an excellent mechanism for eliciting constructive citizen input, for putting to use the talents of individual citizens as volunteers, and for bringing to local government the perspective of the citizen removed from day-to-day administration.

Service on a board familiarizes you with your community and develops potential community leaders, and it gives you the chance to implement your beliefs about which community needs should be addressed and how they should be met. Finally, boards provide a way to practice the spirit of giving and philanthropy, a way to serve your fellow citizens.

As a member of a local government board, you can help influence important decisions about government policies, about the distribution of community resources, and about the provision of services to residents. The quality and effectiveness of your input can affect the whole community.

An advisory board's job is to make informed recommendations to the elected policy making body, the County Council. The County Council, not the board, is ultimately responsible to the community's citizens. The board must understand that its role is to advise, as opposed to the County Council's role to make policy. The board must also understand that its advice and recommendations may or may not be implemented at the discretion of the County Council. Perhaps most important, though, the board members need to understand that its role as an advisory group is important to the well-being of the community. In other words, the board's job is different from the County Council, but just as important in nurturing a balanced, democratic government that works for Los Alamos County.

Effective board work depends on the board's understanding of the general direction in which the community is headed. The issues about which a board advises the County Council may be inextricably tied to the future of the community. It is imperative that an advisory board's work reflects the wishes of the community as a whole and not only those appointed to the board. Boards can help a community meet the objectives of the County Council if the overall community vision articulated by Council is allowed to guide not only the board's case-by-case decisions, but also its long-range goals, work program and procedures.