So you want to be an elected official? (poll)

  Photo courtesy of Flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/macsurak/

The Association of Washington Cities has a webpage targeting prospective candidates at (http://www.awcnet.org/ProgramsServices/Resources/Soyouwanttobeanelectedofficial.aspx) which includes some instructional videos and a PDF file presenting the Top 10 Things to Know When Filing for Office.

While the AWC's Top 10 List is very informative, I would like to present another perspective:

The Top 10 Common Sense Things to Know when Filing for Office

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  1. Budget the people's money as if it were your own -- If you wouldn't justify spending money so loosely at home, chances are you are not alone. You are a guardian of the people's interests. You are not Willy Wonka handing out candy to make people like you.
  2. City staff are not your family. City staff are employees, serving the public -- This may sound like an obvious point, however not many years ago, a previous Kirkland city council member, whom shall remain nameless, argued against cutting city staff during a budget crisis by telling staff, "you're family" from the dais. Interestingly enough, that statement proved to be quite prescient as the council member later married a city staff member after leaving office.
  3. Abide by the Code of Ethics -- Pay close attention to the following lines because some seem to think they are not important: Conflicts of Interest. In order to ensure their independence and impartiality on behalf of the common good, Officials shall not participate in government decisions in which any of the following has a financial interest: (i) the Official, (ii) a Relative, (iii) an individual with whom the Official resides, or (iv) an entity that the Official serves as an officer, director, trustee, partner or employee. Officials shall abstain from participating in deliberations and decision-making where conflicts exist.Appearance of Conflict. If it could appear to a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, that the Official's judgment is impaired because of either (1) a personal or business relationship not covered under the foregoing paragraph, or (2) a transaction or activity engaged in by the Official, the Official shall make a public, written disclosure of the facts giving rise to the appearance of a conflict before participating in the matter.
  4. Use common sense -- the average person on the street can usually smell a rat. City Hall has a way of deadening one's senses.
  5. Put Kirkland first -- some think regional representation is what their job is. They are mistaken. Kirkland city councilmembers represent the interests of Kirkland first and foremost. Regional representation is important, however, not at the expense of serving those who elected them to office.
  6. Be honest, open and transparent -- Tell the truth. Speak plainly. Don't be persuaded to use the mealy words of so many politicians. If you can't explain why something should be done in a sentence or two, it probably is not worth doing.
  7. You are a temporary servant of the people. You are not royalty -- While some may like to think they are the King and Queen of Kirkland, they are not, and nor will you be if elected. Keep yourself grounded and don't let power go to your head.
  8. Re-election is not the goal. -- Serving the people wisely is the goal and if you do it well, you will be justly rewarded.
  9. Try to return trust in our elected officials -- if you see something which is not right, stand up and correct it. That is why you were elected.
  10. Beware the Old Boys (Girls) Network -- you will be tempted to join in as the benefits will be enticing but you must resist. The City of Kirkland has a well-established old boys network and it stinks. A wink and a nod is all it takes for those on the inside while the newbie on the outside never has a chance. This system is corrosive and pervasive. And it needs to be cleaned up by you!

Good luck!

Here is some more text from the AWC website:

You know they are out there…people who really do want to get more involved in their community. They may come out only when a hot issue gets their attention. Or they’re a repeat volunteer you see at different activities. You can picture them on city council, bringing another perspective to your team.

So how do you get them interested in taking the next step?

AWC put together some simple materials you can use to capture the attention of your community members. You can download the 10 Things You Must Do and So You Want to be an Elected Official. Both pieces are short and practical – great information to put out on your city hall counter.