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Throwing Your Hat In The Ring For All The Right Reasons
May 28, 2018, 11:18 AM
Throwing Your Hat In The Ring For All The Right Reasons
Municipal elections are right around the corner and many of us are already thinking about the issues affecting our community, about who can represent Ladysmith residents fairly and with conviction, and about whether we intend to run for office or not. It's a decision that should be made thoughtfully - before someone decides to run for local office, it's really important to have a clear understanding not only of the process and requirements for running for local office in B.C., but also the good and bad reasons for stepping up to the plate.
There is a fantastic blog by a former Alberta politician and businesswoman named Danielle Klooster that explores various reasons for and against running for local office. She does such a great job of summing everything up, so I will refer to her wisdom in this Mayor's Message and supplement it with my own thoughts and experience.
Danielle Klooster's Six Awesome Reasons to Run for Municipal Office
You care deeply about your community and want to make a positive impact
I love Ladysmith. I grew up here, I raise my own family here, I've built a business here, I've actively volunteered here in a number of capacities, and for the last four years, I've served my community as mayor. Public service isn't for everyone, and while it has its challenges, it is incredibly rewarding. If you are truly passionate about Ladysmith and committed to ensuring it remains a safe, vibrant and sustainable place for future generations, then you should consider running for Council and working with your fellow Council members toward the betterment of the entire community.
You have proven leadership experience
Local governments are complex organizations and the learning curve is steep. I've been Mayor of Ladysmith for the past four years and I am still learning. That's why I am grateful to have had the benefit of leadership experience with my time as a business owner, as director and president of the Chamber of Commerce, director of the Ladysmith and District Credit Union, co-chair of our local Parents' Advisory Council, and my work with a group formed to address concerns related to the School District 68 10 Year Enhanced Facilities Plan. If you don't have this kind of experience, consider joining a local board, committee or working group or carry out other types of volunteer work. As Danielle Klooster points out, if you haven’t served your community as a volunteer, you haven’t earned the right to ask it to elect you into a paid position of leadership.
You've done your homework
Many people don’t realize the level of commitment required for effective public service. Council meetings are typically held twice a month, and Council members also sit on other Town boards and committees. Sometimes meetings are scheduled during the day, which means we have to take time off work. Sometimes they are held in the evening or on weekends. Council members attend community events, consultations, and celebrations and we meet frequently with our Stz'uminus First Nation partners and with stakeholders from other local governments or organizations. If you enjoy taking your vacation for more than a couple of weeks at a time, this can pose problems because Council members are expected to attend a certain number of meetings each year - their votes are critical to the decision-making process.
To inform our prospective candidates and interested voters about the ins and outs of running for Council, as well as the many rules and responsibilities associated with becoming an elected official, the Town has already hosted one elections workshop and will offer another in September. There are excellent videos provided by the provincial government that give potential candidates information to help them with answers to questions that they may have before making the decision to run for local office. Elections BC also has information about campaign financing and expense limits, in addition to frequently asked questions, on its website and the nominations package is jam packed with facts and figures about what you can and can't do when you decide to run for local office.
If you want information first hand, talk to me or one of my fellow Council members about our roles, our responsibilities and our own experiences as elected officials. Scan the newspaper, read blogs and political and community columns, and watch our online Council meetings (available at www.ladysmith.ca). Read the Council agendas and minutes, also on the Town website. Attend Council meetings in person if you can. Be informed before you decide to run, during your election campaign, and after you are elected. Being informed will not only help you to decide whether you are ready to serve this community - it will help you to make thoughtful, constructive decisions on behalf of all Ladysmith residents.
You are prepared to be part of a team
They say there is no 'I' in team and that phrase is never as true as how it relates to sitting around the Council table. As one of seven decision makers, we are each committed to the people who elected us, but also to the decision making process. We have to be informed, debating skills are critical, we must consider information and the opinions and positions of our fellow Council members and Town staff, we are required to vote on decisions and, when they don't go our way, we have to accept the outcome even we disagree. Sometimes we make decisions that aren't popular with residents. I can't do this job without my fellow councillors and they can't do theirs without me. Being able to work well with others while remaining true to yourself is a key feature of this role.
You're a long-term thinker, prepared to build for the future
So much of what we do is about building a foundation for future residents of Ladysmith residents - our children's children. Despite the possibility of not even being here to enjoy all the fruits of our labours, we do this work because it's important to us and to our community.
You can remain committed to serving the community and doing what you believe is best, no matter what
Danielle Klooster explains this so beautifully: "Good leaders - as opposed to good politicians - are willing to sacrifice personal gain for the good of the community." This job can be tough - you have to develop a thick skin because some people can be very critical of the job we are doing. Sometimes, it's hard not to take it personally. However, there is so much satisfaction associated with serving this community. I love Ladysmith and so do my fellow Council members. We only want to see our little town continue to flourish, secure in the knowledge that its residents can raise their families and run their businesses in a vibrant, sustainable and resilient community.
If the six reasons I have listed resonate with you, then you should absolutely consider running for Council. Stay tuned for my next column where I share Danielle Klooster’s Five Terrible Reasons to Run for Municipal Office. In the meantime, as I mentioned earlier, a helpful tool for assisting prospective candidates in determining their readiness is by attending the next Town-hosted elections workshop in September, and checking out some excellent videos provided by the provincial government aimed at anyone thinking of running for local office. Visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/local-governments/governance-powers/general-local-elections/thinking-of-running-for-local-office
You can also see Danielle Klooster's original blog here
Mayor Aaron Stone