We as citizens (and journalists) spend a lot of time criticizing our local elected officials.
And no matter what positions they take or how well they perform in office, our expectations will always exceed the results.
So why would anyone run for office?
We know some do it for the ego boost. Some do it for the power it gives them. And some will do it to make money or contacts, or to help someone they know get a job or some other favor.
But those people represent a small minority of the people who serve on town and city councils and legislatures and other public offices.
Most, we have observed through interviews and observation, do this job because serving in elected office is their way of serving their community, of using their skills and expertise and ideas and passion to give something back.
They’re not in it for the glory. They’re not in it for the money. Heck, most elected officials in our region are either paid paltry stipends or nothing at all.
Some find that the hours they put in for the compensation they get works out to be far less than minimum wage.
In return, they give up time with their families and friends. They spend nights and weekends attending meetings and events. They get calls from constituents at all hours and are expected to drop everything to respond.
And all that comes after everything they’ve had to do to get the job in the first place. Think of the time and money and effort candidates have to expend just to run for office.
They have to gather nominating petitions to qualify for the ballot, which involves going door to door with a clipboard getting signatures. Before that, they have to familiarize themselves with complicated election rules and make sure they and their campaign volunteers understand and follow those rules.
When running, they have to attend political party functions, debates and candidate nights, fundraisers and editorial board meetings. Once they qualify for the ballot, they then find themselves knocking on doors again, sometimes for hours each night, after work and on weekends, asking voters what they need and trying to get their message out.
For all the talk of campaign financing, most candidates spend a lot of their own money, or money loaned and donated by friends and relatives, to pay for gas for all the traveling and campaign material.
And then after the election is over, they have go around and pick up all of their campaign signs.
So before Tuesday’s election fades from memory, before we go back to criticizing them, let’s take a few minutes to be grateful, to the people who won seats and will serve, and to those who gave it a good try but came up short.
You perform a vital role in our democracy, and your efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.