Running for local office can be one of the most demanding and exhilarating experiences of your life. Your house will be cluttered and chaotic, your children ignored, and your partner, whether involved or not, will be stressed. And yet, seeking office or pushing through a ballot measure gives you an opportunity to be a leader, effect change in your community, and repay something to the city, county, state, or country you love. You will also find that the campaign experience offers an opportunity for you to grow personally. You will be challenged and stretched as never before. When all is over, win or lose, you will be a different person, with a different outlook on our political process and a new respect for those who run and serve.
"You have to be|
smart enough to
game and dumb
enough to think
-- Gene McCarthy|
on how politics is
When I first ran for mayor of Ashland, Oregon, I had no prior government or management experience. Many felt I should start at the council level and work my way up before taking on the position of CEO of a multimillion-dollar municipality. However, having little or no experience allowed me to see things with a fresh eye. Now, eleven years later, the council, city staff, community, and I have implemented dozens of programs, including open space, water conservation, community composting and recycling, affordable housing, voter-approved strict air quality standards, wetland wastewater treatment, forest management, and specialized school funding. We also divested our hospital and acquired a ski resort and an ambulance service. Recently we placed a dark fiber ring in our city to provide high-speed Internet service and are preparing to offer cable TV services. By community and government working in partnership, we've been able to create and act upon opportunities normally available only to large metropolitan areas.
There are over a half-million elective offices in the United States. If you have an inclination to serve and a desire to be a leader in your community, do it. Being in a position where you have a positive impact on your community and bring about change is more rewarding and fun than you can imagine. Ultimately, the only real credentials you need are integrity and a caring heart.