This is part one of a seven-part series about running for public office.
We hear an awful lot of talk these days about the terrible job people think their elected officials are doing. Although most of the statistical data focuses on congressional approval ratings, ask around any water cooler and you’ll likely encounter similar opinions of statehouse denizens and local pooh-bahs.
We have an array of targets for our fired-up blame-throwers. Some point to the Democrats, others to the Republicans; some blame upstarts in the tea party, while others cast aspersion on insiders in the establishment.
Whatever the cause, there is a dearth of leadership, and there is only so much fault-finding that can occur before we must accept our own responsibility in finding a cure instead of merely complaining of the symptoms.
Good people are needed in elected positions, no matter whether you prefer your government big, small or sort of medium-sized. People who care and are skilled enough to put that passion to effective use are in high demand.
The problem is, many of the most ideal potential candidates are either intimidated or turned off by the thought of running for office. As someone who has been partway through the process, I can say that it is neither as overwhelming nor as sinister as it may seem from the outside.
In this series, I aim to use my personal experiences, augmented with anecdotes and advice from others, to guide the reader through the process from idea to election results. I will be looking for actual participation—the local election cycle for 2014 begins Nov. 22—but passive observers are just as welcome.
So that’s what we’re here to talk about. You either believe or can be convinced that you have what it takes to get in there and make a difference, but you don’t know where to start.
You start by making sure you’re qualified to do this. Yes, there are the lawful checkboxes—you have attained the proper age; you have neither taken nor offered bribes—and we’ll get into all of that later. But there is a personal readiness measure that no legal code can specify.
A fairly common piece of advice is to seek the counsel of family and close friends. After all, if they won’t support you, it’s unlikely that you’ll gain a lot of traction with the general public. Find out what their concerns are, and get them to help identify your strengths.
But even before you start with them, begin with yourself. Would you vote for you? Visualize your pretty face on a direct-mail flier. What do you offer in addition? If you had to sell yourself as a product (spoiler alert: you do), what would be your key message?
Public speaking can be a daunting component for some. Related to that is the icy stare of a television camera that relentlessly vacuums up every hesitation and every verbal misstep—in high definition nowadays. Start preparing to articulate your thoughts in front of people. Practice on a captive audience. (Kids are great for this.)
Another aspect to consider: How well do you respond to criticism? Not only will people have valid questions about your ambitions and your plans to realize them, some folks apparently just like to nitpick for no good reason. Your ability to discern and to respond appropriately to each will tell voters a lot about you.
So when you’re able to declare yourself ready and your spouse or other significant stakeholders in your life have been well-apprised as to your intentions (a major checklist item, take it from me), come back by and we’ll talk through the decision process for selecting an office.
Joe Lance shares his opinions on civic matters and politics from an impassioned but nonpartisan perspective. You are invited to follow both of his Twitter accounts (@tnticket or @joelance) or email him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this editorial belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.