Archive for Thursday, October 9, 2008

KCK volunteer finds meaning in politics

October 9, 2008

If you had asked Jill Benson ten years ago whether she ever thought she’d find herself in the world of politics, her answer would have been a defiant “no.”

But now, as a dedicated volunteer of the Kelly Kultala campaign in the race for the Kansas Senate 5th District seat, Benson, a Kansas City, Kan., resident, finds herself so involved in politics she said she doesn’t have time for much else.

“You put in all the time because you really, really believe in the candidate. I just wonder if I put in a little more time every day, that might make a difference of this person getting elected and this person not.”

Benson might never have gotten involved in politics had an issue not come up that affected her personally, which she believes is true for most people.

A resident of western Wyandotte County, Benson began to see rapid growth and development there and she wanted to make sure it was “quality development.” At the time, Kultala was the only commissioner with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., who agreed to come out and speak with Benson and her neighbors on the issue.

“As a result, I helped shape and mold the development out in western Wyandotte County,” she said. “It was a really neat time.”

From there on she was hooked, and Benson said her goal became to see a “good government that was truly concerned about the community.”

It has been six years since she first stepped into the world of campaign volunteering and Benson has never been busier. After working during the day as an environmental scientist, Benson goes door to door on behalf of Kultala. While she usually stops working once dark approaches, as Election Day nears, Benson said she will put in 8 to 10 hours a day.

“It is always so hard to find time to do these things, as we are busy with our jobs and families, and life in general,” she said, “but I have found that if you put a little bit of effort and interest in understanding community issues and local politics, you can make a difference.”

In addition to knocking on doors, Benson makes phones calls and helps with fundraising efforts. Her favorite part of the job, however, is meeting the voters face-to-face, she said. This allows her not only to campaign for her desired candidate, but also get to the bottom of the issues and concerns facing the community first hand.

“Sometimes many people have bad impressions about politicians. This is often — and sadly — based on politicians who are simply out for personal gain and assisting only special interests,” Benson said. “But there are good politicians out there — those who are truly public servants. When I knock on doors and talk to folks about Kelly (Kultala), I wish I could convey that she really is doing this for all the right reasons. I’m just a citizen. I would not take the time out of my life to knock on doors and make phone calls for a candidate unless I truly respected that person.”

The role of campaign volunteer may not be the most glamorous job, she said, but she knows she’s making a difference in her community.

“I hope to continue to talk to people and encourage people to be active and know what’s going on in their community,” Benson said. “Once our goals are met, we don’t just walk away. It is an ongoing process, the relationship you have between the community and government.”

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