Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

New program offers a unique support system for elected officials

Skippy Mesirow

“We have seen across-the-board improvements with colleagues across the council table including people they’ve had challenges with … as well as staff and the public,” said Skippy Mesirow, founder of the Elected Leaders Coalition.

Skippy Mesirow

In recent years, elected officials have faced threats and suffered a deterioration in mental health. While coverage of such incidents often focuses on federal and state officials, local leaders have come under attack as well.

The Elected Leaders Coalition is trying to help local officials work through those challenges, one small group at a time – for now.


Skippy Mesirow is a member of the Aspen (Colo.) City Council. He’s also the founder of the Elected Leaders Coalition and has spent the past six months directing the first cohort of a new ELC initiative called The Pride.

“It’s a one-year commitment but a lifetime opportunity,” Mesirow said of the program. Participants “cultivate a space that is truly safe, open and peer level, where they get a sense of bonding and community they can’t get anywhere else.”

The program welcomes both elected officials and staff, who separately negotiate the hazards that come with their roles in government. Participants gather once per month for 90 minute sessions covering three areas: skill training (such as overcoming personal blocks, dealing with hate and communication), group coaching and peer counselor support.

“I did not know then that the root of my desire to eat was coping mechanisms cleverly designed by my subconscious to protect me. They were the first of my unconscious self-medication strategies, nor would they be the last whose side effects I had to overcome,” Mesirow explains on the ELC website. “Over the following few decades, I remade my life, delved deep into the heart of my traumas, and turned crisis into creation and roadblocks into building blocks.”

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

And now he is trying to use his own growth experiences to help others to create a better political system. “I want to keep people from dropping out and burning out,” he said.

ELC surveyed participants at the six-month mark to determine whether the program has been successful. And measuring against a benchmark survey conducted at the beginning of the program, Mesirow sees positive results, even though not everyone was able to stick with the program.

“We lost a couple cohort members early on. We know the work is challenging. Most of us [at the local level] are overwhelmed,” he said. “It’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes.”

In fact, ELC grew out of Mesirow’s own desire for self-improvement, going all the way back to his years in youth football, when he was punished by a coach for being too heavy.

Everyone still in the program said they have seen either significant or slight reduction in mental health symptoms since the cohort first started meeting. And everyone also said the program has helped them with professional relationships.

“We have seen across-the-board improvements with colleagues across the council table including people they’ve had challenges with … as well as staff and the public,” Mesirow said.

Of course, working with a dozen people isn’t going to bring about nationwide change – but ELC has a plan for that.

“We need to roll out more cohorts. We need to get more data,” Mesirow explained. “We need to be more robust and reflect the larger kaleidoscope of elected leaders.”

In addition to The Pride, ELC runs a number of other programs that offer similar learning opportunities without the long-term commitment. For example, it offers multi-day “immersive” retreats for local governments or regional gatherings.

“We are trying to get enough data by the two-year mark to support what types of intervention will be the most efficacious in driving mental health and mental well-being,” Mesirow said. “That’s where we can be the best for our community.”

People interested in participating in the cohort kicking off in January can sign up now.

Read More

Secret Service agents covering Trump

Secret service agents cover former President Donald Trump after he was wounded in an assassination attempt July 13.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Violence lives in all of us

Molineaux is the lead catalyst for American Future, a research project that discovers what Americans prefer for their personal future lives. The research informs community planners with grassroots community preferences. Previously, Molineaux was the president/CEO of The Bridge Alliance.

Whenever we or our loved ones are harmed, it is our human tendency to seek vengeance. Violence begets violence. Violent words lead to violent actions, as we’ve witnessed in the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump.

The violence of the gunman is his alone.

Our response to violence is about us.

Keep ReadingShow less
Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Don Bacon

Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Don Bacon won the "Life in Congress" award from the Congressional Management Foundation.

The best bosses in an unusual work environment: Capitol Hill

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

Our nation’s capital is known for many things — but good management practices are not among them. Stories regularly surface of bizarre tales of harassment and abuse by members of Congress. An Instagram feed a few years ago unearthed dozens of stories by staff outing less-than-desirable managers and members for their bad practices. But what about the good leaders and good managers?

Like any profession, Congress actually has quite a few exemplary office leaders. And the beneficiaries of these role models are not just their staff — it’s also their constituents. When a congressional office can retain great talent, sometimes over decades, the quality of the final legislative product or constituent service rises immensely.

Keep ReadingShow less
Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley won the Congressional Management Foundation's Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility.

Official portraits

Some leaders don’t want to be held accountable. These two expect it.

Fitch is president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

There is probably no more important concept in the compact between elected officials and those who elect them than accountability. One of the founding principles of American democracy is that members of Congress are ultimately accountable to their constituents, both politically and morally. Most members of Congress get this, but how they demonstrate and implement that concept varies. The two winners of the Congressional Management Foundation’s Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility clearly understand and excel at this concept.

Keep ReadingShow less
Woman speaking at a microphone

Rep. Lucy McBath is the first lawmaker from Georgia to win a Democracy Awarrd.

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Surprise: Some great public servants are actually members of Congress

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

TheCongressional Management Foundation today announced the winners of the seventh annual Democracy Awards, CMF’s program recognizing non-legislative achievement and performance in congressional offices and by members of Congress. Two members of Congress, one Democrat and one Republican, are recognized in four categories related to their work in Congress.

Americans usually only hear about Congress when something goes wrong. The Democracy Awards shines a light on Congress when it does something right. These members of Congress and their staff deserve recognition for their work to improve accountability in government, modernize their work environments and serve their constituents.

Keep ReadingShow less

Can George Washington inspire Biden to greatness?

Clancy is co-founder of Citizen Connect and board member of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund. Citizen Connect is an initiative of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, which also operates The Fulcrum.

King George III reputedly said George Washington was the greatest man in the world for voluntarily relinquishing power. The indisputable fact is that Washington’s action remains remarkable in human history. And he actually did it at least two times.

On Dec. 23, 1783, Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army and returned to Mount Vernon. He did it again when he declined to run for a third term as president by publishing his Farewell Address on Sept. 19, 1796. In June 1799 Washington was yet again urged to run for president and declined.

His reasoning on each occasion was a complex mix of the personal and political, but the bedrock was an unwavering commitment to put the good of the nation above personal gain and the factions that would ultimately become our toxic party system.

Keep ReadingShow less