Sean Mahan is the prototypical citizen who truly cares about common-sense policy outcomes, not political partisanship. Originally from Pennsylvania, he moved to Frisco, Texas in 2006.
His approach to civic engagement is refreshing, in part, because it’s also unique. While many of his politically informed neighbors focus on primetime news headlines, Mahan stays busy researching issues that directly affect his daily life: local government policy.
As a Navy veteran, Mahan’s former military service precluded him from vocal political involvement. Now that he’s a civilian, things are different. A natural desire to be informed about candidates at the ballot box sparked his interest in getting involved.
“I wanted to make sure I knew why I was voting for someone on the ballot. All too often, the number of candidates running for various positions overwhelms voters…and yet we wonder why, as citizens, we often feel frustrated…that our best interests are not being properly represented.”
Local government was a great place for Mahan to start. It also seemed particularly relevant. For Mahan, it was very simple. “I wanted to know how city government works.” He soon discovered the myriad of taxing and spending responsibilities held by local politicians with overlapping jurisdictions, and how little public scrutiny or accountability they face.
Mahan has extensively researched local economic development deals made between governments and corporations, discovering that city officials don’t often follow up to see what type of “returns” taxpayers are getting, if any. He was surprised how various aspects of these deals aren’t open to public inquiry, lack basic transparency safeguards, and are ripe with glaring conflicts of interest.
Mahan found like-minded local leaders at the Frisco Tea Party. “I realized that many people involved in politics are usually driven by a narrow ideology, or are working for a specific candidate . ..others use social issues as a litmus test. I have found that issue-driven involvement along a broad range of fiscal topics is harder to find.”
According to Mahan, the were the only local group that attempted to actually deal with anything that was not a “social hot topic.” He was attracted to its action-oriented mission of helping to educate and encourage citizens to get involved.
Mahan says their focus had broad appeal. “Limited government, fiscal responsibility, rule of law … these are ideas most Texans believe in. They are unifying principles…after all, who wants unlimited government?”
Mahan hopes to continue to learn and grow from his continued involvement. He’s spent extensive time researching regional transportation policy that’s driving government-run passenger train expansion, non-traditional toll road proliferation, and gross fiscal mismanagement that wastes money on projects that wont reduce roadway congestion. Traffic and toll roads frustrate North Texans, but they don’t know whom to hold responsible or how to get engaged. “I don’t blame them,” Mahan insisted, “it’s a mess and current policy fails the commonsense test.”
He enjoys the fellowship with other citizens he’s met through his volunteer efforts.
“I enjoy branching out to others who have passions that involve city government but are different than my own, because it lets me find ways to leverage our time and information. Ideally, what I’d like to see happen is nonpartisan, issue-driven involvement in city and county government. Policy outcomes should be the focus.”
In his free time, Mahan enjoys researching his family’s own history. He’s also involved with the Odysseus Orchestra and the Urban Forestry Board.
Mahan married in 1993, although he later tragically lost his wife to cancer. They have two daughters—both have graduated college. He remarried in 2001 to his wife, Janet. They have one daughter who is currently enrolled in middle school in Frisco.