Political service, not for the faint of heart

I like so many others have wondered why are there not more good people serving politically.

I come from a family that has always been politically active. As a child, I helped to go door to door as my mother encouraged people to vote for a particular candidate she and my father were supporting. I have helped hand out buttons, stickers and everything in between.

In many communities, it is the voters themselves who are often doing the campaigning for the candidates, because it is simply an improbability for the candidate to reach each and every person’s home.

After years of service to my community being a watchdog reporting upon the actions of government as a journalist, I decided to run for council in my hometown. I was honored to earn the trust and respect of the voters reflected through three elections.

I have worked with some talented, thoughtful people who have an earnest desire to see the community thrive in business development and prosper while fostering a sense of community among the residents and business owners.

Through community comes strength. Strength and success in business and in everyday pursuits and activities help to make the quality of life something to entice people and business to come to your town.

These things are often achieved through a process crafted by our founders called representative government. This process is sometimes referred to as a sausage factory. After seeing it made, you are not as inclined to want to eat the sausage. Local elected officials who take what they are elected to do seriously, study through accredited classes; learn their charter, the laws, the ordinances and the rules under which they govern. They seek to know what other similar cities are doing and often try to apply new ideas and approaches based on what they learn.

The purpose of local representative government is not to create harmony among the elected officials, it is to create a forum for the free exchange of ideas that streamline the operation of government and thus provide better more economical services to its residents and businesses while helping to create economic growth to pay for those services.

In most cases, I have seen local elected officials think through every action they take, the issues have been deliberated, financial aspects have been reviewed down to the penny sometimes for months and even years, and then when approved, it moves forward.

If an elected official is trying to do something, one person does not do it; it is approved by the majority and then becomes the objective of all as the policy of the local government. You can bet your boots in most situations, even if some or a majority of elected officials oppose a motion, there is likely merit to what is trying to be accomplished.

Sadly, in many communities there are those who do not wish to see a community thrive, in fact, they desire to see people, initiatives or actions fail.

Armed with a misconception, an untruth taken out of context, or sometimes simply a lie about an action or an inaction that has been reported inaccurately in media or by another authority of note, people proceed to spread the word about an elected or appointed official’s actions without knowing, asking or understanding the purpose or intent.

We all do this; often our frustration is aimed at people we will likely never meet, and have no way to watch the sausage being made at the national and state level.

In many cases the real problem is with all of us. We do not take the time to know what a wonderful opportunity our forefathers gave us with representative government. We do not take the time to go and watch the sausage being made even when it is produced in our own back yard. We would often rather stand at a distance, shake our heads, and spread a negative thought or deed rather than finding something good to share about what is happening in our community.

That is why more good people do not serve. Elected officials have to put on emotional armor as they hear and see their positive intentions twisted and turned for another’s political benefit or someone’s personal satisfaction. No matter how well intentioned, eventually the battle will grow heavy on those who have the kindest hearts and they will grow weary and go home. They leave behind the politicians whose armor is strong enough to weather the attacks and often their heart is hardened through the process.

I would rather see my community represented by elected officials with a heart to serve, with open minds willing to listen, learn, and share their knowledge and experiences while sitting around the table. But until we as people change our approach to representative government and realize that government is what we make it, especially at the local level, we will continue to chase away many of the best candidates and all they have to offer.