Working to better the community is not something new for DJ-turned-politician Mike Ingram – he’s been trying to help out long before he decided to run for office. An employee of the Canopy Club, Ingram decided after the 2016 election to step up his game and try his hand at politics, and in December he was officially sworn in as a member of the county board in district six.
Ingram’s first big act of charity started all the way back around 2008 when Ingram, along with a few others, organized a month of benefit shows to help keep a local woman’s shelter, formerly known as “A Woman’s Fund & A Woman’s Place,” now known as “Courage Connection” from shutting down.
“We did literally a month where I think 28 out of 31 days in December we did benefit shows, and they weren’t all music, some of them would be comedy… All the artists were donating their time. I mean it was just like this big massive campaign and we were able to give “A Woman’s Place” thousands of dollars at the end of the month,” Ingram said.
With his job at the Canopy Club, Ingram uses his flexible schedule to volunteer wherever in the community he’s needed, from mentoring with CU 1-to-1, donating to the local Food Bank, or playing in benefits as a musician for causes like the Gifford Tornado relief.
“I don’t have a laser focus on like, one or two particular places [he volunteers at]. It’s like, ‘what can I do at the moment that I’m in right now to help?’” Ingram said.
After the outcome of the 2016 election, however, Ingram decided it was time to step up and take an even more active role in the community, running for the county board of district six. While he didn’t think the election had a significant effect on him, he saw how it might affect other people and that made the difference. “Really, socially nothing was gonna change for me, but things were gonna get a lot worse for a lot of people… and so that was good for any time I’d ever thought, ‘well maybe I could run for office someday’ any part of me that felt like that was definitely thrust forth,” Ingram said.
As one of the twenty-two members on the county board, Ingram has a few goals that he believes would benefit the community. One of these goals comes from looking at the recommendations given in a report recently released by the Racial Justice Task Force.
The task force, a group dedicated “to address causes and impacts of racial disparities in the jail population and, more broadly, in the criminal justice system,” released its report in early 2017 detailing changes the city of Champaign could make to aid the community. Ingram is also interested in seeing if the board has the authority to implement “ranked-choice” voting, sometimes called “instant-run-off voting,” or if that is a state-level change.
When asked how this new position will affect his work at the Canopy Club, Ingram was quick to dismiss that it would be any kind of burden. For Ingram, at worst the county board position would mean an extra meeting each week. “It’s just another thing I’ll have to balance, I might have one night where I have an important meeting so I wouldn’t be able to do something I would have otherwise, but that’s my life,” Ingram said.
Ingram believes helping the community can be a simple as staying informed, knowing when the elections are (like the upcoming April elections for the Champaign area) and voting in them. Local elections can have an effect on the community, especially when a position like the mayor or local sheriff in the race.
As for a more hands-on approach, when it comes to how others can get out there, even with a busy college schedule or long work hours, it’s not about how much you give, but the act of giving itself.
“People don’t realize that sometimes if you only had one day out of the month or the year that you could still be helpful, people don’t think they have enough to give, but I’m sure they find others ways in that regard,” Ingram explained.