The time of year is upon us when local elected officials, read school board and city councils, are up for reelection. I had the privilege of serving in Highland Village from 2006-2012. No one person has all the answers about running for local office, but there are several things I would like to share from my experiences that may help the aspiring candidate.
First off, if you have to do a sell job on the members of your family, you might want to reconsider a run for public office. It is essential for your family to be one hundred percent behind you. Reluctance will not do. Only full force enthusiasm should describe your close friends and family’s ideas about your candidacy. These folks support will be essential during a campaign and after you are elected.
Your relationship with the local press can lift or sink your candidacy. Always talk to the press no matter who it is. Even responses to emailed questions are much better than a non-response. There is nothing that looks worse than “candidate x was unavailable for comment at press time” or “repeated calls/emails to candidate y went unreturned”. Also remember there is no such thing as “off the record.” If you are talking and people can hear you, then it is on the record. The explosion of social media was the biggest change in campaigns from my first campaign to when I retired in 2012. Take advantage of it all. Find someone who knows Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn as well as all the other outlets. As you get out into the wide expanses of the Internet, show restraint in what you say or post. Do your research and choose your words wisely. Nothing is off the record!
Time management will be essential during a campaign and even more essential when and if you are elected. Prioritize events and meetings to get maximal exposure. Along these lines, forums and candidate debates are almost always a good idea. Face to face time with voters is the best advantage you can have as a candidate and forums help provide that exposure. In general, forums are a great way to get your ideas out to the public.
Besides death and illness, public speaking is always a top listed fear in our society. If getting up in front of a group makes you sweat then running for office may not be for you. Light humor can be good, but remember that you are not Jerry Seinfeld and doing stand up comedy and telling stories can get old really fast. Listening and taking questions are always good calls at any event.
So if you run for office and you get elected then congratulations! It is a privilege to serve our many local communities. Some days you will wonder what you did with your spare time. There will be times where your life is not your own, but on balance it is and should be a great way to volunteer and serve your community.
Scott R. McDearmont
Highland Village, TX