Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Choosing to serve...

Those who run for public office should be commended. Other than serving their local community they usually don't have higher political ambitions.

That being said the incumbents usually have an advantage. Unless they've done something that really disappoints the people that elected them. That does happen. I worked in one community where a popular senior center director was fired. During the next election the Mayor and half of the city council members up for reelection lost their seats.

Getting back on point, I recently spoke with an elected official who observed that incumbents do have an advantage when it comes to knowing the issues. He also pointed out that if people don't take the time to learn more about the candidates, they will usually vote for someone whose name is familar to them.

Not everyone is suited for office, but they choose to run. If voters are supposed to know more about those who represent them, then candidates should take the time to familarize themselves with the office they are running for. Those who run in earnest should sit in on some of the meetings they will be expected to attend. Get a feel for the issues and what is on peoples' minds.

I recently was on a panel for a League of Women Voters' forum and most of the candidates had good answers for the questions that were posed of them. One candidate was consistent in his answers saying he'd have to study the issue more or there should be a study done on the issue. To that candidate I would recommend study the issues yourself, ask the right people for the information and I'm sure you'd get the answers to your questions. Studies can be expensive and I'd rather see fewer studies when the alternative may be cutting services to afford a study.

As for whether being in office can change a person, it sure will. For some it will be a rewarding experience. For others they'll find out it can sometimes also be a thankless task. I sometimes tell this story. I was working at a radio station in Park Falls in 1992 when Russ Feingold came in and introduced himself. He talked about running against U.S. Senator Bob Kasten and the things he'd like to accomplish. He'd driven himself to the station. Flash forward to 2004 and now U.S. Senator Russ Feingold visits KFIZ on a Saturday to talk about his reelection campaign. Before he left I asked him if being a U.S. Senator had changed him over the last dozen years and I reminded him of our visit in Park Falls. He said he didn't think so...and left with his entourage of three or four.

Don't forget to vote on Tuesday, April 4th.