Democracy is no spectator sport. It takes action to make it happen, and at the center of that action locally is Ann Havlik, co-president of the League of Women Voters of SLO County.
Havlik and the organization’s other dedicated volunteers are on the front lines of democracy, helping residents participate in SLO City Council meetings, fostering voter education and promoting civil discourse throughout.
We caught up with Havlik between candidate forums and voter registration drives to talk Roosevelts, basket weaving and why the League of Women Voters isn’t just for women.
Something you do every day:
I practice playing my ukulele, which I’ve had for only a couple of years and am learning to play.
Educated, by Tara Westover, a fascinating autobiography.
Historical figure you most strongly identify with:
As a child, I loved Teddy Roosevelt, whose home, Sagamore Hill, was near my childhood home. He looked like he would have been a father who loved to have fun. As an adult, I have a great admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt. She was truly amazing and ahead of her time. She had great ethics and was fearless.
Something that people are surprised to learn about you:
I belong to two guilds that promote straw arts: the California Straw Arts Guild and the National Association of Wheat Weavers. I‘ve been to Minsk and Hungary to attend the International Straw Festivals and workshops.
One thing you wish people knew about the League of Women Voters:
We are nonpartisan and we have many members who are men.
What convinced you that civic engagement was a cause you wanted to be involved in?
Civic responsibility and engagement in politics was instilled in me from an early age. My grandmother was very active in politics. My mother, who is 93, has been a member of the League of Women Voters since she graduated from college. She is a past president of two different Leagues in California and was the Director of Voter Services for the League of Women Voters of California.
The right to vote for women came after many years of struggle. It’s important to exercise that right and honor the women who fought for it. My teenage years were marked by the Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam protests in our country.
What’s the most impactful thing your organization has done locally in recent years?
We have been very active in promoting civil discourse, voter registration and voter education. During election cycles, our members moderate candidate forums and present pros and cons forums on ballot measures. We volunteer for Voter’s Edge, an online site that provides non-partisan information about candidates and measures.
We have a team that works with local high schools presenting information about the history of voting, a voter’s rights and duties, and registering and preregistering students to vote.
We also promote civil discourse through presentations, workshops and education. We have a team that works with the City of San Luis Obispo to provide a Concierge program at City Council meetings and greet the public, answer questions and help the attendees with the process for making public comment during the meetings.
What makes you optimistic about the state of civic affairs today?
I see increased interest among students in public policy and discussions. We have registered and preregistered over 1,000 students in our county since we began our student voter registration project. We have had an increase of younger adults joining the League.
This past election cycle many of our candidate forums have had standing-room only. The methodology of these forums helps to ease tensions and promote civility. The County Board of Supervisors’ “Code of Civility” presented earlier this year and signed by all the supervisors and cities in this county is a huge step in the right direction for encouraging productive discussions and meaningful solutions on important local issues.