Political discussion is still strong following the 2016 presidential election, and that momentum is not slowing down any time soon. Local elections are happening all over the country including the race for the local mayor here in Chambersburg, PA. I had the opportunity to meet up with one of the mayoral candidates, Ilana Vojnovich, and interview her about running for mayor as well as what the experience has been like so far.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your experience moving to Chambersburg?
IV: “I’m 26 years old and graduated from Penn State. I moved here four years ago with a degree in electrical engineering, and I do engineering design work for system drives. I grew up in a marine family and my dad was overseas in Korea when he met my mom. We eventually moved to Northern Virginia where I went to high school. My grandparents live in Pittsburgh and my dad also went to Penn State so Pennsylvania has always been like a second home. When I got my job in central Pennsylvania I knew it was a perfect spot.”
Q: What do you like about Chambersburg?
IV: “There are a lot of things I love about Chambersburg. I like that it is more peaceful out here and you can go hiking on the Appalachian Trails. It’s so nice just to stop downtown and grab flowers and fresh fruit from the farmer’s market. It’s the community vibe that I love while having city amenities nearby. I love that downtown is still unique with local businesses and also has historical charm. Chambersburg has a lot of groups and organizations that are doing great things for the town. There are a lot of groups working hard at promoting community involvement, economic development, and quality of life improvements. I just see Chambersburg growing and becoming huge in the next couple of years.”
Q: Why did you decide to run for mayor?
IV: “In the four years that I have lived here, I have participated in many community events and volunteer efforts so I had a good idea about the kinds of groups and organizations that are here. All of the people involved were trying to do things, make changes, be helpful, and bring new life. I wanted to contribute. I am now the Vice President of the United Way of Franklin County and Vice Chair of the 11/30 Network. I think it’s logical for me to continue to look for more involvement, more leadership roles, and more ways to connect community members. Having been so involved for the last four years, I really wanted to step it up.”
Q: What has surprised you most in your time running for mayor?
IV: “Definitely the time. I planned to put a lot of time in, and I planned to put money in. I don’t think I expected as much money. Lawn signs are more expensive than you would think. But I have contributors and that was one of the most surprising things, having friends donate to my cause. I was also humbled by how many people reached out to me for a lawn sign. Before I asked anybody, I posted a picture of mine in my yard the day they came in the mail. All of the sudden people were asking ‘Where can I get mine? Where can I get a lawn sign?’ It has just been a great experience.”
Q: How do you think campaigning has changed with the increase in technology?
IV: “It has definitely changed a lot, but you have to remember the people who don’t use the technology. That’s the part I wondered how to do effectively. Campaigning has improved via technology. People can connect with you easier, quicker, and faster. They can learn more about you. They can try to reach you at any time of day. A lot of people have sent me questions on Facebook, in messenger, or on my page.”
Q: Why is it important that community members get involved in local elections?
IV: “It’s definitely important because the local council make decisions based on your property tax money and the taxes that you pay. People should get involved in local elections because their council person will be able to speak on behalf of their ward for issues like construction ordinances and for ideas of what they would like to see. That’s why it’s also important to know what ward you live in. I think people should have a say in the direction in which their hometown progresses. People should be informed so that they can contribute to and celebrate all of things that are going on.”
Q: What advice would you give for people who are considering running for local office?
IV: “Definitely don’t overwhelm yourself and stay focused on your message. I should have printed my materials earlier but I was too worried about perfecting the message, the platform, and the slogan. That took a lot of time. You can’t do all of the suggested campaign activities, pick your key delivery methods and stick to them. Don’t worry about the other candidates and what they’re doing. There were a couple of online resources that were useful to me and some great friends who let me bounce ideas and questions off of them. When you get discouraged, because you will, take a break, re-energize and go after it full force the next day.”