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So you want to run for Council…
The municipal elections are in far-off November. I don't even want to think of the cold and snow of November yet. Please, we haven't even had the scorching heat of summer.
But, we must think of November because of said elections. Local politicos are already thinking of it. We have two candidates already declared — Mayor Wayne Stetski in Cranbrook and Councillor Darryl Oakley in Kimberley will both run again. And more will be announcing in the weeks to come. Incumbents and new candidates alike will come forward.
But before you throw your hat into the ring, here are a few tips for candidates, rounded up by the news team at the Townsman/Bulletin offices. We've all been watching local politics for a long time, some of us longer than others. In any event, having personally sat through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours of Council meetings over the past almost 15 years, I'd like to dole out some free advice to those thinking of running.
Don't run promising open government and better communication
How many candidates have we seen over the years making the promise that under their watch there will be a better flow of information from City Hall to city citizen? And yet when they get into office they quickly realize it's not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes there are legal reasons why a lot of information cannot be released. Sometimes there are other hurdles. Sure, almost every city hall in the province could probably do a better job of communicating, but don't walk in thinking you're going to be able to make drastic changes in that regard.
Don't run for Council thinking
you'll be popular
You won't be. Not only will you not be popular, you will be accosted by phone, email and in person by citizens unhappy with taxes, potholes, taxes, sidewalks, taxes, arenas, taxes, snow removal and taxes. You will find that you can't go out in public without someone bringing up something they are unhappy with and expecting you to fix it.
Which leads us to point 3;
Don't run if you are overly
sensitive to criticism
You will be criticized. You will likely be called names. Developing a thick skin and a high tolerance for taking abuse, and not responding in a snippy manner, is a vital skill. Those in public service must maintain a calm about them in the face of some pretty nasty comments. It's not all bad, but as is true almost everywhere, you hear more from angry people than those happy with you.
Don't run expecting
to bring massive change
A local government can have very little effect on the overall economy, so don't make any promises in that regard. Municipalities are not able to offer tax incentives to business. Certainly a city can do what it can to tempt business by promoting itself as a great place to live, but a local government's job is to manage the budget and provide infrastructure and services to its citizens. In addition, you, as an individual mayor or councillor must work with the other members of council in order to get anything done. Majority rules, compromise is the order of the day and change comes slowly. As Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski said, the greatest thing he learned in his first term was patience.
Don't run if you've never been to a Council meeting or a budget meeting
If you can't sit through three hours of bylaws and financial minutiae, this is not the job for you. Because there will be meetings. And more meetings. Hours of meetings every week. There is so much to learn about government process that many newly elected councillors say it takes half the first term just to get up to speed.
Have we scared you off yet? We hope not because municipalities rely on people who care, who love their communities, to step up and take on the often thankless job of Mayor or Councillor. Luckily for Kimberley and Cranbrook, there never seems to be a shortage of those people. Good luck to you all in the fall.
Carolyn Grant is the Editor of the
Kimberley Daily Bulletin