Youth on Local Government Boards and Committees
UW-Extension is working with county boards and city councils and their committees to include youth representation in several Wisconsin counties. The following information is intended for those considering implementing these programs. It provides information and links about the models that have been utilized and summarizes their experiences based on evaluations conducted between 2006 and 2008.
Know why you want to involve young people—the relative importance of each of these to your community will help you select a model that fits:
- Youth Development—build leadership skills and habits of active citizenship.
- Community Improvement—bring new voices to the decision-making process to inform elected officials and strengthen government programs.
- Civic Development—encourage a new generation to participate in government and run for office in the future.
- Youth Voice—to ensure that young people are represented in the democratic process.
Douglas County Youth Representatives Swearing-In Ceremony
Models—one size does not fit all
Youth are represented on county boards in eight Wisconsin counties and two cities through partnerships with UW-Extension. The counties Adams, Dane, Douglas, Kenosha, Langlade, Marquette, Oneida, and Washburn. The cities are Waupaca and Superior. There are several models for youth representation:
Youth representatives on full elected board
Adams County: Youth representatives sit on the county board and also serve annual terms in an advisory role on four county board committees: Extension, Highways, Solid Waste, and Parks.
Douglas County and the City of Superior: Three youth representatives and three alternates are selected by application and appointed to two-year terms. Representatives cast advisory votes and alternates serve on standing committees. Youth receive meeting stipends for their participation. In the City of Superior, two youth representatives and two alternates are selected by application and appointed to two-year terms. Representatives cast advisory votes and alternates serve on standing committees.For more information, visit the program website or review Douglas County Program Fact Sheet (2 pages, 50 KB).
Oneida County: Youth representatives and alternates serve one year terms on the county board and may cast an advisory vote. For more information, see http://www.uwex.edu/ces/cty/oneida/4h/documents/TAGbrochure.pdf
Washburn County: Three youth representatives and three alternates are selected by application and appointed to one-year terms. Representatives cast advisory votes and serve on standing committees. For more information, visit the program website or review Washburn County Program Fact Sheet (3 pages, 45 KB). An evaluation of the project has also been conducted.
Youth representatives on committees
Kenosha County: Two youth representatives sit on each of the six standing committees of the county board. They are selected by application to the Extension committee, participate in discussions and cast advisory votes. For more information, visit the program website or review Kenosha County Program Fact Sheet (3 pgs, 43 KB). An evaluation (6 pgs, 74 KB) of the project has also been conducted.
City of Waupaca: One voting position on each of the five city committees is reserved by city statute for a youth member. The mayor appoints all members. For more information, visit the program website. An evaluation (4 pgs, 49 KB) of the project has also been conducted.
Dane County: Youth serve in an advisory capacity, with two on each of the following standing committees: Personnel & Finance, Health & Human Needs, Public Protection & Judiciary, Public Works & Transportation, Environment, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Zoning & Land Regulation
Youth advisory boards and other input mechanisms
UW-Extension helps local government involve youth in many ways–supporting advisory boards and community coalitions that include youth, engaging youth in strategic planning, and facilitating educational activities for schools about local government. A brief publication, Wisconsin Models for Youth Involvement in Local Government Decision-Making (5 pgs, 50 KB), provides an overview of some of these efforts.
Impact in Wisconsin
Wisconsin law is largely silent on questions of age and representation on decision-making bodies. This brochure prepared by Waupaca County UW-Extension faculty highlights legal issues to consider.
Training and Preparation
Organizational Roles: UW-Extension, Schools, Local Governments
Links to More Information
Youth on Board is a national organization that supports youth involvement in non-profit and government boards with informative publications.
The Forum for Youth Investment has published a guide to Building Effective Youth Councils.
The Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development has published materials related to youth/adult partnership and engaging youth in community development and community change. Many are available for download from their website
Other Extension Involvement in Youth in Governance
In the spring of 2005, UW-Extension conducted a written survey and a series of interviews to capture descriptive information about staff involvement and experience with a broad range of youth in goverance efforts. This presentation summarizes early results.
Youth Voices in Community Action and Governance Wisconsin Findings (Power Point Presentation, 251 kb)
Contact Matt Calvert for more information.