Now that the primary election season is behind us, those who follow politics anxiously await the general election this November. It got me thinking about what inspires someone to run for office during these turbulent times. I was an elected Township Supervisor in the 1990s, and "oh, how things have changed.“ There are many factors that can inspire a person to run for political office in local government in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Here are a few possible examples of scenarios that may apply.
The first motive, and in my opinion, the very best one, is a sense of responsibility to give back to their community and positively impact the lives of those around them. Running for a local office can be a way to channel that desire into action. Unfortunately, in today's society, this is becoming quite a paucity. We see more and more municipalities challenged with filling positions not only for elected seats but appointed positions too. However, it seems more rampant among the small to mid-size townships and boroughs. I fear that the quality of officials may suffer if this current trend of "not me" continues. Those that possess the skills for effective governing are already profoundly wrapped up in their personal and professional life to add a sometimes-thankless job to their agenda.
Some individuals may be motivated to run for office because they are passionate about a particular issue that they feel is not being adequately addressed by current leaders. This could be anything from zoning ordinances to parks and recreation to economic development. This is a common denominator in many municipalities, the urge to stand up and attempt to correct or guide a situation that you feel is important. However, it is essential to remember that any action by a board or council requires a majority vote to pass. Just because you feel strongly about it doesn't mean the other members will. This can be frustrating and discourage others from running for office if they sense a stalemate among elected officials.
Sometimes a person's own life experiences can inspire them to run for office. For example, someone who has struggled to find affordable housing in their community may decide to run for office in order to improve housing policies. Having a cause to promote can be a driving force to make a change. The current trend in helping minorities is a powerful dynamism.
Running for political office can also be seen as a way to advance one's career in public service. For some individuals, holding a local office can serve as a stepping stone to higher political positions. In this instant, gaining valuable experience at various levels of government can make for an impressive resume when making the difficult decision to evolve your career further. An excellent record of achievement and hard, honest work goes a long way in obtaining higher offices.
Finally, some people may be inspired to run for office because they are frustrated with how things are currently being done in their community. They may feel that current leaders are not responsive to the needs of their constituents and that fresh perspectives and new leadership are needed. But, again, it can take only one issue to rally someone or a group to change the current status significantly.
We encourage everyone to consider giving just a little bit of their time and expertise to help improve and guide the community in which they live. For those of you already in the field of local government, listen to your residents and pay attention to their actions because they might be the next candidate. We at KMS are inspired to help any municipality "fire this thing up."
About the Author
David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 33 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at email@example.com. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.