Some of the smartest, most thoughtful people I know serve on local boards and commissions, volunteering their time and talents for the public good.

Those panels are under siege by small, strident—and frequently disruptive—groups of people bent on pushing their ideologies on everyone else. From the county commission to the school board, once-placid meetings are now battlefields in the culture wars.

But it’s not about stolen-election fairy tales or drag queens, just as the Civil Rights Movement was not about lunch counters. It’s about intimidation and control, fear and hate.

Our Library Board of Trustees, the focus of a recent story, is a target of a posse of malcontents, egged on by political hacks. The chaos they sow has resulted in board vacancies; their vitriolic attacks discourage qualified applicants from applying for those seats.

That’s a recipe for disaster, said Willie Puchert, a graphic designer and former local journalist who has applied for one of the two library board vacancies. “I was compelled to apply after watching the circus-like atmosphere of local government meetings,” he said. He cited “the bullying tone of activists … and the growing censorship trend” as his motivation.

Puchert quoted The West Wing TV series: “Decisions are made by those who show up.” Some of the folks showing up to harass local panels, he said, probably have the open seats in their sights.

Boards need a diversity of members with many different points of view. But watch YouTube videos of recent library (or other local) board meetings, and then decide if you’d want any of the protestors calling the shots.

YouTube video

Volunteer boards, now more than ever, need thoughtful, dedicated people. Ideologues show up regularly. Reasonable people need to show up, too—and, if possible, volunteer for the posts that help shape the future of our community.

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