Social media activism is easy: One click, and you feel like you’ve done your part. In fact, social media has made it so easy to complain about the world that we often forget to do anything about saving it—except for Adrienne Martini, of course.
In her humorous and thoughtful political memoir, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, journalist Martini channels her outrage over the 2016 national election into energy for her local government. She has nowhere to put all of her rage. She goes to the Women’s March, knits pussyhats, calls her representatives, but she knows she has to “do more than write postcards and stew.” And her friend has a suggestion: Run for local office.
Martini is soon running to be a county board member in upstate New York, and she walks readers through every step of running for council. How do you get your name on a ballot? How many signatures do you need? What happens after you win? She writes about the awkwardness of asking for signatures and how every vote truly matters. (Her county board ends up swinging Democrat because one new member beat the incumbent by only five votes.)
When I first picked up this book, I envisioned Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation”—bighearted but not necessarily hugely effective because, well, it’s just local government. But there’s no “just” about it. Martini’s seat on the rural, red Otsego County Board gives her the power to take part in deciding where the county’s $105 million budget goes. That money is utilized to do incredible things, including providing vaccines, funding food banks and upgrading cell phones for social service workers.
Martini’s approach is simultaneously lighthearted and enlightening, brimming with practical advice on how (and why), if you want to enact real change, your local government is the place to start. It’s a fast-paced, easy read that serves as a reminder that the world isn’t hopeless. At one point, Martini meets with former Oneonta mayor Kim Muller after a heartbreaking time with the Department of Social Services, a branch of government whose focus is programs for children and adults living in poverty. Muller gives the most compelling advice of all: “Change one life. Don’t always go for the whole forest. Try to take little bits of it—and you make a difference.”
Martini is making a difference for the residents of Otsego County. If you feel any discontent with your government, either national or local, Somebody’s Gotta Do It serves as a reminder that your rage can be the basis for making real change.