It’s the time of the season when we start to see many civic minded folks declaring their intentions to run for office. I am not one of them because I know how much hard work is involved in being a dedicated councillor.
I have served good politicians and not so good politicians but I have nothing but respect for anyone who runs for office.
Accepting a political office should not be considered a part time job or additional income. The best mayors and councillors I have known have accepted their positions as a full time commitment.
It is certainly not all glamour and front page if you are elected. You can forget Monday Night Football and Hockey Night in Canada, you will be out far too many nights to council meetings, regional committee meetings, budget meetings or retreats.
You don’t have to attend all of these. You don’t have to pick up your 200-page agenda package on Friday and read all weekend to prepare for Monday’s meeting. You can fake it, talk loud and ask questions that leave everyone scratching their heads, you might get by. But the best politicians do their homework, listen, and make informed decisions.
You will have to get some nice clothes because you will be invited out every weekend to one or more charity events. You can go and may or may not be acknowledged or you can stay away and everyone there will notice you didn’t show and assume you ‘don’t support their cause.’
Some will run on one personal agenda item. Suppose you want to lower taxes. Then the budget meeting arrives and you realize that if you get your wish, people get laid off or services get cut. Have you taken the time to meet the staff, the people that drive snow plows, process permits, fight fires or enforce bylaws? Your tough decisions all have faces and families.
Voters — you have to sort through the stuff you hear and read. If a rational voice stands out, find out who they are and see if they deserve your support. Do they know that kids need parks and playgrounds and rec centres?
Do they know seniors need transportation, housing and social programs? Do they know the homeowners that pay the taxes want services not promises?
So why run for office if it is so much work? Well, because you can make a difference.
When your name is on the new recreation centre or your vote has passed a much needed bylaw or grant, when someone stops you on the street and thanks you, those rays of sunshine all make up for the negative times.
I have no time to give to those who say they don’t bother to vote. To those people, please sit down and be quiet, you have given up your right to complain.
We can follow a sign that used to hang in my office, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
At least that’s what McGregor says.