Folks, I truly hate to start by Troy McClure-ing everyone into this, but I’d like to lay a little personal history as an introduction to this informal piece of mine. A few years ago, when I was 18, I was in a government class at Lewisville High School (Farmer Pride!). I had an excellent teacher named Stephen Wright, who has now moved on to bigger and better things, unfortunately. Much of the class focused on general apathy in most elections, especially amongst younger demographics. He mentioned pathetic voter turnout rates for local elections in particular. At the time I was involved in a few things, among them a relationship, a track season that would take me all over Texas, and a complicated college search that involved academics, athletics, and finances. But I felt the need to do something about the political situation at hand.
So I decided to run for office. I didn’t qualify for most positions because of age, but I did see that local elections in Lewisville were coming up. So why not run for council? What better way to get people involved than by running myself? I picked up the paperwork and spent a few hours going through the details. I figured if I was going to do something ridiculous, it might as well be completely ridiculous, so why not run full-on for mayor? After careful consideration, I filled out the paperwork and turned it in... and promptly told my parents afterward. I attracted few votes, but I still hold it as one of the best decisions of my life. For the record, I have no ambition at this time to run for city council or anything of the sort in the near or distant future, so I’m not just prepping you for a plug of some kind.
Flash forward a few years. I went to (and ran for) UNT and earned my undergraduate degree. During that time, I organized a campaign in Flower Mound to oppose a measure that would prohibit those under 21 from running for office. I went to UT-Austin for a semester in grad school and hated it, and came back to Lewisville to earn my graduate degree in a different field at UNT. It’s been quite a ride, and a few things have changed (for example, I can use the word “hegemony” in almost any conversation, though I don’t really know what it means.) One thing that has strengthened is my personal pride in the city of Lewisville. I have kept up with elections and events in these past years, and though at times I felt I would have done things a bit differently, I strongly believe that this community is a great one worth living in.
Not only has the city council overall been a levelheaded body that has made the right decisions on most occasions, but the staff of the city, including the city manager and many others, have obviously done a very good job. I feel pride each time I go running and see a new trail or park that wasn’t there when I left a few years ago for Denton. I feel good knowing that my city isn’t constantly in and out of a courtroom arguing for some superfluous piece of legislation it created just to create controversy.
And now comes the hard sell: In this upcoming election for May 2011, there are two vacant City Council seats that are being contested. This is, I believe, the most important local election in many years in our city. Information that has come up about some of the candidates is staggering to say the least. I have faith that my fellow citizens who vote will make the right choice given the pertinent information. My greatest fear, though, is that low turnout might create a situation in which one of the more suspect candidates might win, and that will hurt not only our reputation but also our city as a whole. Again, apathy is our enemy in this case. As a wise man once said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Men and women on a city council do not just approve zoning issues and cut ribbons. Their more important role is to represent the city that elected them. They must be practical and pragmatic facilitators, ready to make the right decisions based on the situation at hand, not on misapplied ideological preferences. They must be moral (however nebulous that term may be) and they must respect the rule of law. They must communicate effectively, not by using national buzzwords that seem to plague so many other elections. As ironic as it is to say this after my own run, they must have a history of wanting to help this community through volunteering. This need not necessarily be through city functions such as volunteer committees, but those are an excellent start. These qualifications don’t just make a good candidate, they make a good person.
The purpose of this essay is not to get you to vote “my way”. I believe I know who I’ll vote for, unless something else comes to my attention (watching “Jersey Shore” is an automatic disqualifier, for example.) The purpose of this essay is implore you to get involved in this upcoming election, not only through personal research but also through spreading the word about the situation we face. I ask of you not just as citizens but also as members of a great community to do your civic duty by looking closely at this election and by participating in any way you wish. I thank you for taking your time to read my long-winded prose even when it is peppered with some rather bad jokes.
P.S. Consider this piece to be public domain, to republish as a whole or in part, in your own publication, blog, or whatever, with or without my permission. Just properly attribute and I’m sure we’ll all get along.