A couple of weeks ago, Gerry Taft’s article for the Regional Rundown was on citizen engagement. This week, I would like to expand that topic to local government and what it means to be involved. As many of you may know, the municipal and regional district elections are being held in November of this year. Elections are an opportunity for the community to give serious consideration to who is going to be representing them over the next four years.
There are two aspects of the election — those who wish to run for office and those who will be the engaged citizens looking to elect the right candidate. The engaged citizen will need to look for leaders who understand the role of being an elected official. For example, the job of an elected council is governance; council provides direction to staff in terms of policy and then staff delivers the services based on those policies. Elected officials do not manage the town and they certainly do not tell the building inspector, the public works staff, or the CFO what to do. That is the CAO’s job. The engaged citizen needs to look for leaders with a healthy balance of differing perspectives and skills, and they need to look for leaders who want to serve the community and provide good representation and leadership now and into the future.
For those considering running for office, do so because you love your community and you feel you have a contribution to make. I, personally, understand the fear one experiences when putting your name forward at election time. I stepped far outside my comfort zone but, in time, with the help of staff, conferences and good training, it became much easier.
Those of you with an axe to grind or personal grievances to air will be disappointed. Your power is limited to the amount of influence you can exert during debate, and to your one vote. You must accept that you are not going to make everyone happy and, oftentimes, when you satisfy one, you will frustrate another. Be prepared to make mistakes, it is part of the process.
Ask a lot of questions on both sides of the debate. You will become better informed to make the right decision for the greater good of the community. There is nothing like public service to keep you humble. That being said, local government has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had!
I have had the privilege of working with caring, intelligent and hardworking individuals and organizations, and experienced firsthand what it is to be involved in continuing to grow a successful community. If you are considering putting your name forward, please feel free to contact me or any of your current locally elected officials in the Columbia Valley.
Dee Conklin is the mayor of the Village of Radium Hot Springs and a Regional District of East Kootenay director for the Columbia Valley.