Saint Louis — Most websites for elected officials are dotted with photos of smiling families, carefully crafted campaign videos, and plenty of “DONATE NOW!” links. But Rep. Michael Butler has done something a little different for michaelbutler.org.
Butler, a sophomore House Democrat from St. Louis City, is hardly front-and-center of the website, which looks and feels almost identical to countless websites for non-profit organizations across the state. Butler’s site links to his various pieces of legislation and, far more prominently, has information for volunteers to canvass the neighborhood during non-campaign years.
“One of the things I learned as I was running and when I was elected was that a lot of people did not have the information about the many, many resources in my district,” Butler said. “I have at least 30 non-profits in my district, I have three college campuses. In the lower-income parts of my district, a lot of people just didn’t know about the stuff around them.”
Butler began his “Poverty Initiative” based on this problem. Every week, he canvasses the neighborhood with various groups and volunteers to give out information to locals about resources for anything from local transit to healthcare and more. Butler’s Poverty Initiative soon merged with Better Family Life and their Neighborhood Alliance, which focuses primarily on North St. Louis City, where poverty and crime tend to be the worst.
The goal of all those organizations, Butler said, was to help people locate the resources they need. Butler designed his site as a place people could go either to volunteer for his initiative, or learn more about their community. The decision to minimize his presence as an elected official was a conscious one, he says.
“It doesn’t seem genuine to constantly promote just the political stuff, because that’s less than half of what I try to do for the community,” Butler said. “We wanted to promote the community before we promote me as the person.”
Butler’s site has been up since the early days of his election, when he built it himself through GoDaddy. Now, Butler has hired a professional to come in for an overhaul. The site does feature two links to donate directly to Butler’s campaigns, and features a “Team Butler” logo near the top, but it’s the words just underneath the logo that speak to the site’s unique purpose.
“YOU can make a difference. YOU are not just a leader of tomorrow. YOU are a leader of today.”
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman