The campaign signs are almost all removed from the lawns around town. The echoes of campaign speeches have been carried away on the warm May breezes.
The election is over, and there will be some new people involved in local government.
In Radford, David Horton became mayor with a decisive 7.87 percent winning margin. Jessie Critterton and Naomi Huntington also won seats on the city council in the five-person race.
This group of newcomers will bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the city and appear ready to hit the ground running.
On the Radford School Board, Lynn Burris retained his seat, while Liz Altieri and Lee Slusher will now begin serving the school division’s students, parents and staff as new board members.
Many other individuals won elections in Dublin, Pulaski and other New River Valley localities, but all of the candidates who ran, successful or not, deserve our thanks and admiration.
Running for office is not easy. It takes hours and days away from families. There is a financial commitment to running a campaign. There is a lot of stress from trying to accurately convey your positions, always being on the spot and not getting enough sleep on too many nights. But it is all worth it.
Theodore Roosevelt could have been talking about every local candidate when he said this in a speech called “Citizenship in a Republic” in 1910: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Yes, it takes fortitude to enter the political arena, and we should appreciate all of the candidates who ran for office.
Things happen in Richmond and Washington that unquestionably affect our lives, but it is the decision-making on the local level that makes the most significant difference in our quality of life day-to-day.
The people who run for office know that. They commit themselves to making their communities a better place, not just for their families and friends, but for all of the people.
That’s an essential concept for newly elected officials to remember. David Horton, for example, talked about having a “big tent” to include and hear the viewpoints of many different people.
Inclusion is a great idea since, too often, some legislators get caught up in ideology and lose sight of the “big picture.” When that happens, listening stops and good concepts might slip through the cracks.
At the same time, if your candidate failed to win an election, don’t decide to pout and oppose everything the new council or board proposes just to be obstinate.
That is what has happened in recent years in Richmond and Washington. When it does happen, not much gets accomplished, and the people suffer because of it.
It would be much better if everyone sat down under that “big tent” and shared their ideas. Will the new legislative board agree with everything everyone suggests?
Of course not, since you can’t please all of the people all of the time; but if everyone listens, and the representatives act in the best interests of the people, things will usually work out pretty well.
That’s another critical concept for the newly minted legislators to remember—the people. Sometimes representatives forget that their job as an elected official is to serve the needs of the people, not the need to win some political power struggle.
Contrary to popular belief in Washington, “winning” means nothing if you make decisions without thinking through the long-term ramifications of the policy. You “win” when the people all feel a part of the process.
You “win” when people see that you are transparent, sharing facts and details as much as possible and acting in the best interests of all of the people. Openness builds trust, and trust is the currency that helps people support decisions.
Every organization has a “chain of command,” but new legislators need to get to know staff members personally and what they are currently working on in order to make informed decisions.
As a random example, everyone may think they have a good idea of what the recreation department does, but what are the resources, needs, short-term and long-term goals, criteria for success in achieving those goals or impediments to progress?
In what ways does the department strive to improve the quality of life for current residents as well as planning for those who may be interested in moving into the community?
Meetings with staff on a “listening tour” will be essential for the new representatives.
Hiring new staff members is always critical since the quality and expertise of staff makes all the difference in the world to the success of the organization. In Radford, for example, the city will be hiring a new economic development director, and it would be fantastic for the new council members to be invited to be a part of that selection process in some way, as they will be working directly with that person immediately.
New mayors, council members, supervisors and board of education members all come in with enthusiasm and new ideas. They will need our support and, just as importantly, our feedback. It is our community, and we all need to lend a hand in making it successful.
With the elections last November and on Tuesday, there is a lot of excitement about the future of the NRV. It is time for everyone to come together and become a part of the wave of enthusiasm and confidence that is rolling through our valley.
Join a committee, attend events, check out a meeting or volunteer for a project. Find a way to get involved.
As President Jimmy Carter said, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
Our new representatives will be working hard to make a difference.
We should all help!
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.