I have decided to draft the important principles I would follow if I were to ever run for office. If you have not read Principle #1 you can read it here. With no further ado:
Campaign Principle #2- Make sure I want and can do the job effectively, not just that I want the title, think I can win the election or am mad about one or two specific issues.
I will never forget several years ago, when I lived in Vegas, I had the opportunity to meet with someone who was planning to run for State Assembly. I asked them why they wanted to run for office. They rattled off how mad they were about a bunch of national issues and how poor our current president was doing. I asked them what they thought about several state issues and they had no idea. They wanted to get involved in "politics" but were going to do so by chasing a position they knew nothing about. The person was well connected in the community, well liked, and had many connections that would make fundraising simple. They asked me if I thought they could win. All I could think was, "that is the wrong question." I did think they could win, but I didn't think they should run.
I always worry about this with local political positions and I try to check myself whenever I have considered running. Most of the ones I've seen are not as bad as the example above, but some seem to think they would like the position, or they are hot under the collar about an issue or two, and so they throw their hat in the ring without really knowing what they are getting into. In city politics, there are those big issues that the citizens really care about. They get debated on Facebook and at the local cafe and you think to yourself. "If I was in there I would do so much better then these dingbats." And then there is the more mundane, day to day votes, committees, events, issues, and meetings that make up 95% of the job.
When the new feeling of being called councilman wears off, will I still have the commitment to really give it the time it deserves. And to do it right it takes much more than reading the packet and voting on the issues put before you. Good councilmen, councilwomen, and mayors will drive issues, and that takes research, meetings and a willingness to take risks. That is why I look for someone and hope to be someone who has been involved prior to showing up to run. Have they been attending council meetings? Have they served on committees and given the time and commitment when there wasn't money and title involved?
Can they even answer what the role of the position is? I have spoken to many in our city who get very confused on the role that the Mayor and Council have vs. the City Manager, City Attorney and other city officials. It is hard to do a job well if you don't understand what the job is. (And as a complete side note that I will write about later, I think some of the biggest political issues and failures come from politicians doing others' jobs. Judges thinking they're in the legislative branch, legislatures thinking they should be executives, and executives trumping themselves up, thinking they should be all three.)
Also, what about my background helps me provide value in the position? A good council both challenges and provides a check on city officials. Without the right backgrounds City Council has difficulty effectively reviewing what staff gives them. It's hard to provide a good review and notice something is missed on an engineering report if you have no background in engineering. Just as an engineer will be hard pressed to provide a fair review of a legal issue. Good leaders can come from any profession, but this is part of the reason a diverse, critically thinking council is a benefit to the city.
So, in summary if I ever run for a position, I need to be able to clearly answer what the position is and does, what makes me uniquely qualified and able to provide value to the position, and can I honestly say that I can keep my commitment both in time and energy during the term of my position?
If I can't give clear, honest and affirmative answers to these questions, than I shouldn't run. I should get involved in other ways more suited to my time, abilities, and present experience and circumstances, like writing about campaign principles in hopes the right people will be inspired to run.