As a long-time educator, Mary Vogt knows the value of homework.
So she did plenty of it before accepting an appointment to the Monticello city council.
“I contacted a few previous city council members. My two questions for them were, ‘what made you want to be on the council?’ and ‘why aren’t you now?’ just to get a feel if there were concerns. That was not the case with either of them. They enjoyed their time on the council,” said Vogt, the 15-year principal of Monticello’s Lincoln Elementary School who was named to the city council on Jan. 27.
But her research did not end there. Vogt went through past meeting minutes “to see what had been the topics of discussion,” in addition to corresponding with Jeremy Jones, who had previously held the council seat.
After the process, Vogt concluded, “this is an opportunity to give back to the community. Monticello’s been very good to me.”
And, as in other areas of her life, she sees it as an opportunity to learn something new.
“When presented with the option, what it came down to was I feel like I could learn quite a bit from our current council about the process, and just wanted that experience. I wanted to be able to learn, I wanted to be able to give back, and I wanted to be able to be a voice for people in the community,” she said.
Vogt grew up in Champaign, graduating from Centennial High School in 1991, then earned her teaching degree from Illinois State University. After student teaching in White Heath, she became a middle school teacher in Jacksonville for eight years, followed by one year stint as a principal at A-C Central Middle School in Ashland.
She then landed in Monticello in 2005 as the principal at Lincoln, and feels that experience will help her as a Ward I representative on the council.
“I think where it helps me is I already know you can’t keep everyone happy all the time, but you can try,” commented Vogt.
“You can listen. You can let people be heard, and then you can make an educated decision based on what people have to say. With the role I have, I have to do that all the time. I am not the be all, end all. I don’t know everything,” said Vogt, who also lived in Monticello with relatives while she went to college.
“I think she is a very qualified candidate, a very qualified person, and I think she brings a wealth of knowledge to the council and I look forward to working with her,” said Monticello Mayor Larry Stoner, who appointed her to the vacancy. The city council then unanimously endorsed her.
Even with her experience, Vogt had her share of butterflies after she officially sat down at the council table.
“To say that I wasn’t nervous would be an absolute lie. It took a little while listening to the other council members asking questions before I felt like I did have a valid question,” added the local school administrator. “I don’t want to be just the rubber stamp, but I also don’t want to be that person who rocks the boat just to rock the boat. I want to make informed decisions.”
As a single mother for the past decade, Vogt also hopes to give a voice to that segment – both single moms and dads – of the Monticello population.
“I feel strongly about that. I feel there are some people who have great ideas and opinions but would never be able to put their opinions out publicly. I am someone they can share those ideas and opinions with,” she noted.
Vogt also has a master’s degree and superintendency certification. Her council term runs until the spring of 2021, so for her this is a test period to see if she wants to continue as a council representative.
“I want to see how it goes,” she said. “For me, most importantly is how the community responds. Am I somebody who the community feels comfortable being their voice? And if I am not the person who they feel comfortable representing them, well then I shouldn’t continue to represent them.”