Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bill's Top 5 Reasons To Run For Local Office


By Bill Gouveia


            Lists seem to be a big deal these days.


            Everywhere I look, there are lists.  Blogs, newspapers, magazines – they all seem to feature the top (pick the number) things you should or shouldn’t do or say to someone in a specific position or condition.  You know, Seven Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pregnant Lady, or Nine Reasons Why a Tropical Vacation Beats a Ski Vacation, and things like that.


            So I decided to try engaging in this phenomenon and doing a few lists of my own.  And since I primarily write about local politics and public service, I figured I would start there.


            Below please find “Bill’s Top Five Reasons to Serve As Local Elected or Appointed Officials”.


1.    It’s a true form of public service.  I am not one who does well volunteering in a soup kitchen.  I can’t hammer a nail straight, so helping to build affordable homes is out.  But I don’t mind giving of my time in an effort to make my local government and my community better.  I actually like studying a complex municipal budget, considering ways to be more efficient, or working with others to get a better value out of our tax dollars.  So that’s my form of public, charitable giving.  Of course, some would like me to stop being so generous.


2.    It makes you a better, more well-rounded person.  Serving as an appointed and elected official has taught me a lot of life lessons.  It has helped me understand people, and served me well in my own business experience.  You get to listen and talk to a wide variety of folks, and you learn something from almost every one of them.  If you can be an effective local official, it builds a foundation for you to do other good things with your life.



3.    You can make a direct and immediate difference.  If you volunteer to work on the campaign of someone running for governor, congress, senate or even president, you feel good about your efforts to make a difference.  But the truth is you directly affect a lot more lives by being involved in the campaigns of local officials.  A selectman, a school committee member, or planning board volunteer official can have a huge influence in what happens in your neighborhood.  The issues they deal with may not be as “sexy” or glamorous as those facing the national politicians, but the impact on matters directly connected to you and your family is probably greater.


4.    You really don’t need to be a skilled politician.  Local officials have many roles in town government.  Some are highly visible leaders who need to influence voters to be effective.  Others are more behind-the-scenes types who do the important but less publicized work which makes your government possible.  If serving as a selectman isn’t your cup of tea, you can be a finance committee member or perhaps serve on the local zoning board.  You probably won’t get the recognition – good or bad – that others do, but you will know you contributed to your town by serving the taxpayers and residents.



5.    It’s a relatively inexpensive hobby.  While serving as a local official certainly can consume a lot of your time, it generally doesn’t have to consume much of your income.  Campaigns can be expensive, especially considering most local positions pay nothing in salary or stipends.  But for the most part local election expenses consist of a few campaign signs, some newspaper ads (we’d really like you to remember those), some web page construction costs, and maybe a party to celebrate on election night.  It is relatively easy in this technological day and age to get your name and qualifications out in front of the voters.  In most instances, money is not really a huge factor.


Those are a few of the reasons why you should consider getting directly involved in your local government as an appointed or elected official.  Maybe next week we’ll discuss the reasons people generally don’t do that very thing.


Unless, of course, I can come up with list of the Top Five Reasons Chocolate Ice Cream Should Be The Official Dessert Of Columnists Everywhere.


Excuse me.  I’m off to do research.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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