By Erin Brady | email@example.com
Many Flagler students know her as their environmental science or marine biology professor. Other students might know her for her casual attire and long dreadlocks. No matter how you know Professor Barbara Blonder, you remember her.
The rest of the St. Augustine community will remember her as well, as she is currently running for a City Commission seat.
Running with the tagline “New Ideas for the Nation’s Oldest City,” Blonder’s campaign focuses on policies and proposals for a greener St. Augustine. The main focus of her City Commission campaign is protecting the city’s environment and how the effects of climate change have impacted residents.
Blonder is well-known, so the fact that her time at Flagler College inspired her City Commission campaign should come as no surprise to anyone.
“Last fall, I had a particularly engaged group of students,” Blonder said.
“These students were really excited. One of my students came to me and asked what they could do to help and to make the future seem more hopeful.”
Some of these questions revolved around what they could do to help alleviate the impact of climate change in the community.
“I told them that [they] gotta vote in every election,” she said.
However, that advice got Blonder to thinking about her own experiences voting and the impact her votes had on local and national policies. “I’ve been voting in every election since I was able to,” she says, “but we still have not solved anything.”
During this time in Blonder’s life, the need for new voices to run in local government races became more prevalent in the community. “There were some people who were trying to recruit more female candidates [and] more scientists to engage in politics,” she explains. Although she was hesitant, she thought of her students, calling them her inspiration to start her City Commission seat campaign.
The characteristic that sets Blonder apart from other candidates is her science background. “There has never been a scientist on the City Commission board,” she says, “even though our city’s biggest issues stem from human activity. This same human activity contributes to climate change. Just like how we contribute to it, we can also fix it.”
If you follow Blonder’s campaign on social media, you might notice some familiar faces behind the curation of her posts. That is because she has teamed up with Flagler students to help promote her campaign.
“[The generation that attends Flagler College] is, in my opinion, the most resilient generation,” she says, “[they] are the ones who have grown up the most with climate change. When I was younger, this was not something we had to worry about as much.”
She continues to praise the generation that is currently enrolled in Flagler College. “[They] are the most engaged generation,” she says, “[they] deserve to be heard and I know that [they] are going to do more than other generations because [they] do not have a choice.”
Blonder decided to get students involved with her campaign because of their expertise in a number of different fields. “Since we’re in a pandemic,” she explains, “we’ve had to reinvent how we campaign. Before I began my run for the City Commission seat, I did not have any social media,” she says, “so having people who can manage my new pages and spread my messages has been very useful.”
Many of her campaign materials, such as stickers and decals that were recently sold at the St. Augustine Farmer’s Market, have also been designed by Flagler students.
However, Blonder’s campaign all comes down to not only helping Flagler’s generation but also making the St. Augustine community a better place as well. That includes helping underserved areas get access to better water systems. “West Augustine is currently on septic, which contributes to bad water quality in numerous households and runoff,” she says, “so not only are they being robbed of clean water, the water they are getting damages the environment.
“We need to look at environmental issues in a holistic manner. We have become too accustomed to being too reactive and less proactive,” she says.
Above all, however, the most important message that Blonder has for Flagler College students is to be active in their community. This includes both their college and local communities. “Many of the ideas that I’m campaigning on are not original, they have been proposed and successfully practiced for years now,” she says. She hopes that these messages help start dialogues throughout campus that will result in change.
“Do everything that you can to educate not only yourself but the people around you,” Blonder says, “have the hard discussions. Vote all the way down the ballot. Get engaged in clubs and programs. We can push for a better future.”
Barbara Blonder is campaigning for City Commission Seat Two against Leanna Freeman. Election Day is November 3rd. For more information on Blonder’s campaign, visit her website at blonder4cosa.org.