You can help shape opinions for The Olympian

Twice a year, The Olympian recruits a new community representative to serve a one-year term on its editorial board. If you want to help set the newspaper’s opinion page agenda over the next 12 months — including this fall’s important local government elections — then now is the time to apply.

We are taking self-nominations until 5 p.m. Friday, June 14. The opportunity is open to everyone, including those who have served in the past.

The editorial board provides the official voice of the newspaper through daily editorials appearing in this space. It includes two community representatives who serve over-lapping terms, one beginning Jan. 1 and the other on July 1.

The paper’s publisher, senior columnist and senior editor comprise the remainder of the board on a permanent basis. But all editorial board members have an equal say in shaping the newspaper’s official position on issues of the day, including candidate endorsements.

It is something of a rarity for daily newspapers in Washington to include representation from community members on their editorial boards. The Olympian began adding a citizen voice to its board in 1992.

The outcome of that experiment proved so beneficial to both the newspaper and the individual that a second community representative was added. Not long ago, we heard from past community representatives that they found the original six-month term too short, and we extended terms to a full year.

Community representative Mary Gentry, a Saint Martin’s graduate who taught school in both the Yelm and Tumwater school districts before starting a 30-year law career in the South Sound, is finishing her yearlong term on June 30. Halfway through his term is our other community representative, Doug Mah, the first person of Chinese-American descent to serve as mayor of the City of Olympia, who has served in four different state agencies over a 23-year career in state government and now operates his own management and public affairs business.

Community representatives actively participate in weekly editorial board meetings at the newspaper offices. The meetings usually involve guests from city councils, private or nonprofit organizations, directors of state departments or the even the governor.

They ask questions and then help shape opinions during ensuing discussions, which are often lively. Community representatives later comment on draft editorials before they are published. They also offer ideas for editorial topics of interest to the community and suggest individuals or groups to invite to editorial board meetings.

The next six months will be especially busy for the editorial board with a full slate of candidates for Thurston County auditor, city councils, school boards and fire commissions.

Anyone interested in serving as a community representative should send a self-nomination letter to The Olympian. Include information about your ethnic heritage, educational background, work experience and community involvement. Explain why you want to serve on the board and what unique quality you would bring to the board’s deliberations.

Send your self-nomination to Editorial Board, The Olympian, P.O. Box 407, Olympia, WA 98507, or fax it to 360-754-4221. You can also send it via email, to letters@ theolympian.com.

Remember, the deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, June 14. We look forward to hearing from you.