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Government Boards and Commissions: A Quick Guide to Board Service

Did you know there are hundreds of state boards and commissions that support the work of agencies and departments? Did you know there are local boards and commissions that also support efforts on a more regional level?

I have the pleasure of supporting the state board appointments process for Virginia. While each state has slightly different laws, there are always opportunities for government employees to serve.

Frequently Asked Questions About Board Service

Where do I find out about boards and commissions near me?

  • Each state has a website that lists its boards and commissions and its current vacancies. In a search engine, you can type in the state you live in and “state boards.” For regional boards, you can type in the city or county you live in and “boards.” Some regions may call them councils, committees or task forces.

What are the boards and commissions tasked with?

  • Boards and commissions are created for a very specific purpose. On the state level, boards are often created through legislation and have their purpose written in law. Regional boards also have specific roles and responsibilities.
  • There are often three types of boards: advisory, policy and supervisory.
    • Advisory boards serve as formal liaisons between the agency and the public. They provide advice and counsel to an agency or director.
    • Policy boards promulgate public policies or regulations. They support industries that need to be regulated such as real estate, nurses, contractors, etc.
    • Lastly, supervisory boards are responsible for agency operations. They often approve appropriations requests and appoint the agency director.

Who can serve on boards and commissions?

  • Each board might have specific seat requirements, so it is important to review the board in its entirety. For example, there may be a number of seats reserved for licensed real estate agents on the Real Estate Board. Other than specific seat requirements, anyone can serve. Yes, even government employees.
  • If you have specific questions, you can talk to the staff who supports the appointments process as I do. The one thing to keep in mind is that board service is usually on a voluntary basis with no additional compensation.

Quick Guide

  1. Search boards and commissions in your state or locality.
  2. Research the purpose of the board and any seat requirements.
  3. Gather your information: resume, references, cover letter, etc.
  4. Submit your application.
  5. Follow-up as needed. The appointment process might take a while. Sometimes individuals are appointed months or years after they apply. Send follow-up correspondence as needed.
  6. Bonus: Nominate others who might be a good fit. I always appreciate receiving nominations for other individuals to apply.

Do you currently serve on a board or commission? How has the experience been for you? Share your comments below!

Maribel Castañeda currently serves at the pleasure of Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam as the Director of Appointments in the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office. She facilitates the appointment process for over 300 state boards and commissions or about 800 appointments each year. She bridges communication between constituents, state agencies, Governor’s Cabinet and organizations who want to share a voice in their government. Her vision is to have each board and commission reflect the Virginia that exists today. Maribel also serves as the Director of Latino Outreach connecting the Hispanic and Latino community to resources and services.

You may also be interested in GovLoop’s First Time Serving on a Board? and Board Participation: How Much is Too Much?.

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