Be a Waco, Texas Voter!

by Rebecca McCumbers Flavin

Election Day is right around the corner, and the League of Women Voters of Waco wants you (YES, YOU!) to be a Waco, Texas voter! In this blog post, we provide a step-by-step guide with something for everyone – from first time voters to those who have never missed an election.

You are not registered to vote in McLennan County, Texas

Good news – there is still time! The deadline to register or update your registration before the 2018 General Election is Tuesday, October 9.  You are eligible to register if you are a U.S. citizen who will turn 18 years old by election day. You may submit your registration as early as two months before your 18th birthday. If you are a college student, you may register to vote at either your school address or your home address. LWV-Texas has a great website with step-by-step instructions to help students register to vote. If you are a convicted felon, you may register to vote once you have completed your punishment phase, which includes any court-ordered period of incarceration, parole, supervision, or probation, as explained on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

There are several ways you can register:

  • Fill out the registration online, print it, and mail it in: While Texas does not have online voter registration, you can use this online tool to fill out an application on your computer. Simply print, sign, and stamp your application and mail it to:  Elections Administrator, Kathy E. Van Wolfe, P.O. Box 2450, Waco, TX 76703-2450. If you do not live in McLennan County, you will find a list of all Texas county voter registration officials’ mailing addresses at this link.
  • Obtain a hard copy registration application: Voter registration applications are available at the McLennan County Elections Office, located at 214 N 4th Street, Suite 300, Waco, TX, 76701. Applications are also available at libraries, government offices, and high schools.
  • Get a voter registration application mailed to you: You can request a postage-paid voter application form using this link.

For all of these options, make sure your application is postmarked by Tuesday, October 9 so that you are registered in time for the General Election on November 6th. Once you have submitted your registration, you are one step closer to being a Waco, Texas voter! See #3 below to make your plan to vote.

You are registered to vote in McLennan County but have not voted in a while, you are not sure if you are registered, or you recently moved and are not sure if your address is up-to-date

The first step is to check your voter registration to make sure it is up-to-date with your current address. You will be asked to enter your date of birth along with either your Voter ID number or your Texas Driver’s License number. Alternately, you can enter your name, county, date of birth, and ZIP Code. If you are not registered or need to update your registration, see #1 above. If you are registered, see #3 below to make your plan to vote.

You are registered to vote in McLennan County

It is never too early to make your plan to vote! Do the voter “two-step,” and make your plan for the General Election.

Step 1 – Plan when and where to vote:

In-person voting:

We recommend that you make an appointment with yourself to vote.

Plan when: Early voting begins Monday, October 22nd and continues daily through Friday, November 2, 2018. Election Day is Tuesday November 6. That means you can vote anytime beginning October 22nd until Election Day EXCEPT for November 3, 4, and 5. On the McLennan County Elections website you will find the schedule of times when the polls are open each day during early voting. On Election Day all polling places are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Plan where: On the McLennan County Elections website you will find a list of early voting locations, if you plan to vote October 22 – November 2. There is a longer list of polling places for Election Day. In McLennan County you may vote at ANY of the designated voting centers. Check out the lists, and choose a site that is convenient for your daily commute to work, school, or running errands.

Plan to have the proper ID: Texas law requires that you present a photo ID at the polls. You will find the list of acceptable photo IDs here. If you do not have one of the required photo IDs, you may present an alternate form of supporting identification. You will also be asked to complete “Reasonable Impediment Declaration,” as described here.

Ballot by mail:

Determine if you are eligible: If you are 65 and over, are disabled, are going to be out of the county, or are in jail, you may apply for a ballot by mail.

Apply: For voters 65 and over and disabled voters, if you already submitted an annual application for a ballot by mail, you do not need to reapply. Your ballot will be mailed to you after September 4. For those who are not 65 and over or disabled, you will need to submit your application by Friday, October 26. Note that is the deadline your application must be received, not the deadline it should be post marked. We recommend mailing your application at least one week in advance to be safe.

Submit your ballot: Ballots should be submitted by 7:00 PM on Tuesday, November 6. See step 2 below as you complete your ballot.

Step 2 – Learn about the candidates:

Visit VOTE411, an online voters’ guide provided by the League of Women Voters Education Fund. At VOTE411 you can see races on your ballot and compare candidates’ positions side-by-side; candidate information for the General Election will be available in October. You may even print out your ballot with candidate choices and bring it with you to the polls. Note: while you may bring a paper copy of your voters’ guide, you may not bring your phone or electronic device into the voting booth.

Now that you are prepared to be a Waco, TX voter, share your plan with a family member or friend and help them make their plan to vote, too!

Rebecca McCumbers Flavin serves as Co-Communicator for LWV-Waco, leading the taskforce that focuses on voter registration and get out the vote activities. Dr. Flavin is also a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Baylor University. The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a non-partisan organization that for nearly 100 years has advocated protecting the right to vote and encouraging the exercise of that vote. The Waco chapter was reformed in 2017 as a League-at-Large under LWV-Texas. In the past year LWV-Waco has hosted several events, including a voter candidate forum for the March 2018 Primary, voter registration drives, a movie night, and an educational walk co-hosted by Waco Walks. To join or learn more about LWV, follow us on Facebook by searching for League of Women Voters of Waco, or contact the local chapter at .

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


[1] The Comparative data is reported in the University of Texas’ “2018 Civic Health Index.” Voter turnout and registration statistics are those reported by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Knowing history compels me to share it and make it.

(Gloria Conatser, a student at Waco High,  was one of 25 students nationwide selected to present their National History Day documentaries at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at this year’s National History Day event.  In today’s blog post she shares a bit about what this opportunity meant to her. — ALW )

“Those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it.” – George Santayana

By Gloria Conatser

I have always bothered my teachers with my questions, and the best of them have humored my curiosity. National History Day has allowed me to pursue the answers to my questions myself. In the past six years since I began creating documentaries, every question that I have been able to answer has uncovered ten more for me to follow. Every year, this year especially, my products have been about revealing the events that shaped today.

A big recurring theme in every corner of history is the presence of conflict, and this year’s National History Day theme, “Conflict and Compromise” could be interpreted in many ways.

The approach that I chose to take was one that highlights the dark angle of compromise. Merriam-Webster describes it as, “a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial.” The title of my documentary this year is “3/5ths to Thirteenth: The American Compromise of Black Livelihood.” As I explored the 3/5ths Compromise and Thirteenth Amendment, and outlined their modern implications, I learned that the livelihood of Black Americans has been compromised throughout our history by people who don’t have to face the consequences.

National History Day has given me the opportunity to exercise mental muscles in a way that is not a standard in the public education system. I have had the freedom to analyze hidden histories, create a product that reflects my research, and hold my own among academic leaders from the local to the national level.

During the week of National History Day, I had the opportunity to present my documentary at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. A few days before flying to Washington D.C. I was notified that my work had been selected. The day after National History Day judging I was featured in the Smithsonian and offered an experience that I never would have been able to dream of.

The ultimate takeaway from these years as a National History Day student has been experience: experiencing perspectives that I would otherwise be blind to, experiencing locations many can only dream of, and experiencing the fulfillment of earning these opportunities myself. Practically speaking, I am as capable as most people, and vice versa, but the difference is that I am aware of my abilities and the potential for impact that I have, and that has made all the difference.

Gloria Conatser is a rising senior at Waco High. This is her fifth Year competing at National History Day. Gloria hopes to study engineering or biology and ultimately become an Astronaut. She also aspires to help create a more equal future through her career.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


Be a Pineapple for Waco!:About the Waco Tourism Ambassador Program

By Carla Pendergraft, Director of Marketing, Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau

What’s up with the pineapple? The pineapple has long been recognized as a traditional expression of welcome and hospitality throughout the South.  Appearing on all sorts of décor, including gateposts, door knockers, and fountains, the fruit symbolizes those things we appreciate in a home: warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality. So it is not surprising that we have chosen the pineapple as the symbol of a new Waco Tourism Ambassador program!

 “Be a Pineapple”

There is an old saying that we should all be like pineapples: stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside. We are asking Wacoans to be pineapples!  If we are more like a pineapple to our visitors (around 2.5 million annually), WE will become part of their lifelong memories. A happy visitor spends more money in our economy, thereby creating more jobs for Wacoans. Over 5,700 people are employed in the tourism industry in McLennan County – that’s a lot of jobs! Wacoans that love our City are what create the memories people remember.

In the soft launch of this program we have received so many great ideas to move forward and had so much enthusiasm from residents, merchants and new organizations to Waco. So many have asked to be involved and offered their help, we appreciate it!

Making Visitors Feel Welcome

Need ideas? Here are a few ways Wacoans can make sure visitors feel welcome:

  • When you see someone who looks a little lost, offer your assistance with directions.
  • When you hear people ask about what there is to see and do in Waco, offer your recommendations and suggest something fun that Waco has to offer! Not sure about what’s going on? Visit the Convention and Visitors Bureau website at:
  • If you own a business, use a pineapple as a conversation starter with visitors. Maybe a stencil of a pineapple on the side of your building with the hashtag #wacopineapple, or a real pineapple at the front desk.
  • When you see someone who looks like a tourist, reach out to them and ask them where they are from! Start a conversation! We have had visitors from all over the world recently.

There are so many ways to help people have a wonderful visit to Waco.

How the Program Works & How to Get Cool Swag

Just reach out and help a visitor in some positive way. Catch a photo of you and the visitor, and then nominate yourself (or someone else) at We’ll send those selected a Waco Tourism Ambassador t-shirt or a pin.

Visitors to Waco can get involved, too. If someone in Waco goes the extra mile to make them feel welcome, the tourist can nominate them as a Waco Tourism Ambassador. Photos are needed so we can celebrate! Let’s build that hashtag of positivity online!


We are launching the campaign with a free event, August 31st at the Waco Convention Center, Brazos Room South. Join us from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a brief program at 3:30 p.m., and a performance by Waco’s own, Holly Tucker who will unveil a new song specific to this program. We’d love to see as many Wacoans there as we can!

Share Your Waco Pineapples

Do you see a pineapple that a business is using as a conversation starter with visitors? Or have you spotted a pineapple used in an architectural element? Share them with us by posting on Facebook or Instagram, and use the hashtag #wacotxpineapple!

The Pineapple in History

Christopher Columbus encountered the pineapple on his second voyage to the Caribbean region. Due to its rarity, expense, and striking beauty, it became a special gift for gift-giving occasions.  Dinner guests served the exotic fruit felt particularly honored by a hostess who obviously spared no expense to ensure her guests felt special. Over time, it becomes incorporated into decorative elements in the home and in public spaces.

The Pineapple in Waco

Waco has long been a crossroads for travelers to Texas. The historic Suspension Bridge, built in 1870, allowed travelers to safely cross the Brazos River.

Pineapples appear as decorative elements in at least two downtown Waco locations: a wrought-iron fence in Indian Spring Park, and the Waco Foundation fountain in Heritage Square. If you find pineapples featured elsewhere in Waco, be sure to take a photo and let us know.

Want to be an extra in a video with Holly Tucker?

We’re shooting a scene with Holly Tucker for our ‘Welcome to Waco’ Tourism Ambassador campaign video and we need some extras for a shot on Austin Avenue. (You don’t have to do anything but clap and smile and it won’t take long at all.) We’ll be walking Austin Avenue in front of the Hippodrome. Everyone is welcome, wearing uniforms is fine. Dogs and kids are also welcome.

  • Date: August 21
  • Time: 10 AM – 10:45
  • Location: In Front of the Hippodrome

Carla Pendergraft is the Director of Marketing for the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau, the official destination marketing organization for the Waco area. She has worked since 1990 in various positions within the Convention Center and CVB. She has a master’s degree in business from Texas State University. Her early career was with Citicorp Diners Club in Chicago, Illinois in management and marketing communications.  Carla is the proud grandmother of Aviana, who is 6 years old, and a newborn granddaughter named Rose.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.




Five things that make Waco a Great Place to do Business

By the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Staff

What is it about Waco that makes it so appealing to new businesses? At the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, our economic development team is constantly working to grow the economy through the attraction of new businesses to the region and the expansion of our existing industry base. Having already announced $119 million in new industrial investment for 2018, the level of interest in the community is strong. Not only has Waco become a desired destination for visitors, more businesses and individuals are taking notice of our strong assets and choosing this city as the ideal location for both professional and personal success. In fact, McLennan County is outpacing the seven-county region, Texas and the U.S. in labor force, making Waco a magnet for talent and commerce.

Here are five things that we think make Waco a great place to do business:

1. Waco is centrally-located. Waco’s location in the “Texas Triangle” positions the community as a central point for connectivity and growth. Identified as one of 11 mega-regions in the United States, is roughly formed around the D/FW region, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, with Waco located right in the middle. A recent article published by D Magazine in Dallas, indicates this region is home to more than 20 million people and produces nearly $1.3 trillion a year in economic output, ranking 17th among world economies. Interstate 35 also plays a big part in Waco’s economic success, providing easy access throughout Texas and the United States.

2. Waco is home to five outstanding, diverse institutions of higher education. Waco is fortunate to have higher education opportunities for people of each and every walk of life, which is important to businesses who are looking for a strong talent pipeline. Baylor University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas and the largest Baptist university in the world, offers a combined 258 baccalaureate, masters and doctoral programs, according to the Baylor website. McLennan Community College (MCC) offers multiple associate degree programs at affordable costs that are designed to be transferable to bachelor’s degree programs at senior-level institutions. Through its partnerships at the University Center at MCC with universities across Texas, including, Texas Tech University at Waco and Tarleton State University Waco, students can easily transition into affordable bachelor’s degree programs without having to leave Waco. Texas State Technical College (TSTC) is the technical training college for Texas. Headquartered in Waco, this diverse two-year technical college focused on student success in learning and preparation for future careers offers over 40 associate’s degree and/or certification programs and boasts a high student job placement rate after graduation.

3. Waco provides an awesome quality of life. The cost of living is affordable, and the business climate is supportive and welcoming. With initiatives like Start Up Waco, partnering with resource providers across Greater Waco to provide knowledge, work space and access to capital, entrepreneurs will have more connectivity into the Waco-McLennan County entrepreneurial ecosystem than ever before. Already, new businesses are popping up across the community and finding success entering the marketplace. Waco is home to an abundance of natural resources, including the Brazos River and Lake Waco. Cameron Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the state, with beautiful trees, a natural habitat zoo, access to the Brazos and Bosque rivers, and a huge network of trails that vary from beginner to expert level.

4. Waco has a strong spirit of collaboration. Waco believes in partnering for success. Few places see local governments, the business community, education institutes, and non-profit organizations working together on common goals for growth and success.  We all are working together to grow and diversify our economy and create prosperity for everyone.

5. Waco’s flourishing tourism market is evidence of what an incredible place Waco truly is. With over two million visitors every year, it’s obvious that people enjoy visiting Waco. Visitors see Waco in a different light – they meet the kind, loving community of people who live here; they interact with the positive, supportive businesses; they have wonderful experiences that keep them coming back again and again.

Waco has transformed into a truly vibrant community that is primed and ready for new businesses to put down roots. We’re experiencing a very unique, exciting time here in Waco, and we are so thankful to have opportunities to show off our city.

Written by Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Staff.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.

Teacher Self-Care: A Community Effort

By Jaja Chen

I often hear individuals make comments about teachers that make it seem as if they have it “well off” because of having summer vacations. While having summer off is a crucial part of teachers’ self-care and work-life balance, we often do not sit and consider the amount of energy, finances, or even time that teachers dedicate throughout the school year – year after year – to managing their classrooms and educating our children daily.

Oftentimes, teachers’ own self-care goes by the wayside because of the immense amount of needs they must tend to in their classrooms, amongst students, and to meet all the tasks and demands they face as a teacher – even outside of the classroom. This can lead to summer being used to “catch up” on sleep, health, and self-care.

While summer can be a huge part of teacher self-care, my hope is that summer is not the ONLY time when teachers are able to take care of themselves.

Here are three ways we as a community can seek to support our teachers in self-care as they return to the new school year:

1.) Honor and encourage our teachers – Coming from a Taiwanese background, educators are highly honored, valued, and esteemed. The culture of honor that East Asian cultures place on teachers is something we can learn from. How can we honor and encourage our teachers throughout the school year? Rather than making comments about how good they have it or how they shouldn’t complain about difficulties on the job due to having summer off, how can we seek to listen to and support our teachers as they deal with ongoing work-life stress?

2.)  Support healing from secondary trauma & burnout – Compassion fatigue is a common experience amongst helping professionals and is a combination of secondary trauma and burnout. Secondary trauma occurs when we continually hear about or witness, directly or indirectly, traumatic events that occur to others. Working with students and families daily exposes teachers to traumatic events and can lead to secondary trauma. Burnout, on the other hand, is feelings of ongoing exhaustion and helplessness due to inefficiencies experienced in our jobs.  When our teachers experience compassion fatigue, do we judge them or do we seek to understand? Do we point them to resources, such as individual counseling, or do we shame them? As administrators, do we seek to create policies and school cultures that enhance and support teacher self-care? Are we open to our teachers taking time off for their mental health or do we stigmatize mental health recovery?

3.) Volunteer for local school efforts & initiatives – Ensuring that our students and schools are successful and thriving is a community effort. Teachers are not the sole guardians for our children’s mental, emotional, physical health, and educations. We all have a role to play in our communities as we support teachers in their self-care. Part of this is seeing how we can play a role in supporting school initiatives, school events, and to inquire about ways to support schools as volunteers. Recognizing that we have a part to play in supporting our schools helps reduce the burdens placed on teachers to be everything to our children. Ways to be involved include supporting mentoring and tutoring programs that non-profit organizations-including Communities in Schools (CIS) and Prosper Waco – host for local schools. Local churches may also have after-school programs or book clubs to support children such as the STARS Mentoring Program.

The success of our schools requires a community effort.

What are ways you can support your local school today? And if giving of your time and/or finances is not a possibility, are there ways to connect with a fellow teacher and to encourage them as they begin their new school year. My hope is that the task of teacher self-care is seen as a community effort, not just placed on teachers themselves to figure out. There are ways that our culture and perspectives can hinder teachers from thriving in the amazing work they do. Let’s strive for creating a culture of compassion, authenticity, and empathy, as opposed to shame.

Jaja Chen, LMSW, CDWF is a private practice therapist in Waco through Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions specializing in trauma, compassion fatigue, maternal mental health, and difficult life transitions. As an EMDR Trained Therapist, Jaja’s passion is walking alongside helping professionals whom are healing from PTSD, depression, anxiety, secondary trauma, and burnout. Jaja can be contacted via email at or via webpage at