By Emily Rushton
Are you a millennial who wants to become involved with local politics, but you aren’t quite sure where to start? Emerging Leaders Initiative (ELI) can help.
“Like the title says, we work with millennials – emerging leaders – who are trying to engage themselves in local politics,” said Peter Monson, executive secretary for UIT Network & Communications Infrastructure (NCI). Monson is part of ELI’s inaugural board.
The organization chose to focus on millennials because, as of 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Utah was still the youngest state in the country, with a median age of 30.7 years.
“Millennials – especially millennials of marginalized groups – don’t really have representation at every level of the public sector, in a way that represents the population,” said Monson.
There’s no aspiration too big or too small – ELI helps millennials do anything from obtaining a position on a board to running for office in local government. With a boot camp-style training program, ELI helps aspiring young people learn how to do things like engage their constituents via social media and fill out the complex paperwork required to run for office.
The organization also strives to maintain nonpartisanship.
“That’s something we’re really proud of, is that we have a mix of people that can come together and just say, we want representation for our age and for the spectrum of people within our age,” said Monson. “We have the left of the left wing and the right of the right wing.”
Monson, a disabled veteran who served in the Utah National Guard for four years, has always had an interest in local politics.
“As a national guardsman, you take an oath to serve your state, as well as your country,” he said. “My personal feeling is that while I might be out, the oath is never out of me.”
“I really believe that true change comes at the lowest levels in any organization,” he added. “And politics is one of those.”
In addition to working with ELI, Monson stays busy as a married father of two who likes to get outdoors with his family whenever he can. He’s also two semesters away from finishing his master’s in public administration.
“The thing I love about Utah,” he said, “is that it’s exploding with ideas and with people who have voices. It’s really fun to just be around likeminded people who really want to see this state grow and prosper.”