When in a position to make difficult decisions which affect a large number of people, it helps to have as much input as possible.
Local elected officials are hoping for exactly that in the new year.
"I hope we start having more people want to get involved," Common Council of the City of Brazil member Brad Deal told The Brazil Times recently. "There are a lot of things going on as we are trying to get the city in better shape, and while we do get questions, it would be nice to have more people provide their thoughts and input, especially at meetings."
Numerous officials told The Brazil Times a lack of attendance at public meetings has been an issue for many years, but believe if more residents came to the meetings, they would have a better understanding of what is going on.
"Residents need to get involved more on issues now, instead of waiting until something happens then voicing their opinions," Clay County Commissioner Jack Withers said.
City Council member Bill Lovett agreed that public input before final decisions have to be made would be beneficial to the entire process.
"It would help the councils, commissioners and town boards to make better informed decisions with input beforehand," he said.
Having also served on the city council for a number of years, Brazil Mayor Ann Bradshaw has seen little participation from the public since entering the world of politics in 1992.
"Every year, we have numerous discussions about the budget, and in all that time I can only remember one person ever coming and asking questions," she said. "Meetings are a great opportunity for residents with concerns to address their elected officials."
Clay County Council President Mike McCullough told The Brazil Times time is allotted in meetings for residents to air their opinions and make suggestions regarding any issue.
"When people actually attend and see what is happening, I think it makes it easier for them to understand what is going on and how things work," he said. "We all encourage public comments and everyone is given a chance to speak at our meetings, but it seems like the only time people show up is when there is a controversial topic."
While some meetings -- like the Dec. 30 city council meeting to discuss the animal contract -- attract enough residents to fill a meeting room, many times elected officials are left to themselves to make major decisions without public input.
"There is definitely not enough participation from the public," Brazil resident Barbara Martin, who regularly attends city council meetings, said. "I would like to see the room filled up with people who want to help the city improve."
McCullough added, "It would be nice to see people show up once in a while. Although about 90 percent of what we do on the county council is cut and dry -- and we don't have much flexibility as to what we can do -- the public can help by giving us information to consider on issues which may come up in the future."
Questions have risen in recent weeks regarding the time in which some meetings are conducted, but state statutes limit the options some agencies have.
"You can't please everyone," Withers said regarding the commissioners' 9 a.m., meeting time. "But if we moved our meetings to the evening, we could get complaints from those who work evening shifts and can't attend those meetings as well."
However, Martin said residents should be motivated to attend meetings to provide their opinions and complaints up front, regardless of what time the meeting may be conducted.
"Don't complain unless you come to the meetings and express your concerns and opinions," she said following the Dec. 30 city council meeting. "If people want to see something done, get down here and speak up."
The following is a list outlining the regular meeting schedules of some of the governmental agencies around Clay County.
* Clay County Commissioners -- 9 a.m., first Monday of the month, Commissioners' Courtroom, Clay County Courthouse,
* Clay County Council -- 6 p.m., first Monday of the month, Commissioners' Courtroom, Clay County Courthouse,
* Common Council of the City of Brazil -- 7 p.m., second Tuesday of the month, Council Chambers, Brazil City Hall,
* Brazil Parks and Recreation Board -- 7 p.m., first Wednesday of the month, Council Chambers, Brazil City Hall, and
* Clay Community School Board of Trustees -- 7 p.m., second Thursday of each month, North Clay Middle School (April and October meetings at Clay City Jr./Sr. High School).