OK, it sounds hokey, but we believe it.
The city council and school board elections coming up this fall — always on the uneven years — feature democracy at its best.
These nonpartisan races basically involve folks who want to make a difference, and the fact that most of these positions involve little or no compensation is evidence enough.
We admire the people in this group of roughly 1,500 elected officials in Colorado because public service is one of the highest callings. And as this annual event shapes up, we like to see candidates in all races. Uncontested races simply don’t provide the choices voters should have or the valuable discourse that comes from competition.
We encourage citizens who observe vacant races in their districts and cities to take a look in the mirror, think about stepping up, or think about asking someone else to step up. Some of the best elected officials are the ones who were recognized by others for their skills, energy and insights and then urged to run. When three or four people think a neighbor has a lot to offer, it’s time to make a phone call or knock on a door. Be bold.
For those who run, we have a few friendly reminders. The odd years are the nonpartisan years. By state law, city council, school board and special districts are nonpartisan. Although it is handy to team with their parties, we urge candidates to honor the nonpartisan framework, and we urge voters to assess candidates by looking at their character, skills and drive — not party affiliation.
The late statesman Ted Strickland of Adams County once told us that the most important asset of an elected official is an open mind. To that point we do like candidates who work hard to keep learning and stay close to the pulse of a community — continually checking in with constituents and not making assumptions.
And to the voters, remember to look for balance, look at your boards and council and think about what is missing. What is needed — an attorney, an engineer, a shop owner? And — not to discriminate but to diversify — if all the members of the board have the same first digit in their ages, maybe older or younger representatives would improve the representative mix.
Sam Mamet, longtime executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, which interacts with 60-70 cities around the state, often emphasizes how rewarding public service is and tells those who serve that they will look back and feel good about at least one thing they had a hand in — perhaps nobody will remember what you did, but “you’ll know” he says. And of course the act of simply contributing — recognized or not — is reward for the soul.
For the most part, candidates in school board and city council races simply want to do something to better their communities. That’s good stuff. Be part of it one way or the other.