Newly elected officials: Now comes the hard part
For those who have been elected to serve in public office in North Central Washington, I offer congratulations and best wishes as you get to work learning your roles and addressing challenging issues.
Serving as an elected official at any level these days can be a thankless task. Your constituents and news organizations tend to focus on problems more than on the good things that a public agency is doing. Your decisions are scrutinized and second guessed. So I tip my cap to every person who stood for public office, whether they were elected or not. It takes great fortitude and a strong sense of service to do so.
To those who were elected or re-elected, I would offer the following thoughts as you move forward in public service:
First, I encourage you to find creative ways to engage the public and resist the temptation to operate in a relative silo. Engaging the public is challenging and requires time, effort and creativity. When it is done well, you can create a deep connection with the public you serve. Elected officials who stop trying to engage people end up in a echo chambers and that’s not helpful.
Second, I encourage you to keep an open mind and an open heart on issues and seek knowledge and perspective as you attend to the duties of your position. We are in a time of rapid change and we need leaders who are willing to listen to fresh, sometimes unorthodox ideas in their deliberations. We all must adapt.
Third, I would strongly suggest you make transparency a top priority. You will earn great admiration if you are willing to admit mistakes when they happen, learn from them and move on rather than trying to pretend that mistakes are never made. We all make mistakes and we need to learn to own them.
Finally, I encourage you to make decisions based on the greater good. When you are confronted with difficult topics and decisions, search your heart and mind for the solution that is based on what creates the best environment possible for our communities.
Building a sense of community ownership will help us face challenges together in our schools, utilities, sewer districts, city councils, etc. We all need to be invested in creating a community that is vibrant, successful, supports those of us who are less fortunate and ultimately leaves the next generation with a better community than exists today.
So what is the newspaper’s role in all of this?
I believe we have a great responsibility to not only point out flaws and problems but also provide encouragement and highlight accomplishments in civic life. We no doubt can do a better job of emphasizing successes, but we will not be shy about weighing in on difficult issues.
As publisher of this newspaper, I am committed to doing everything in my power to encourage and support successful communities in North Central Washington.
It is time now for all of us to roll up our shirtsleeves and get to work making our communities extraordinary. Ultimately, all of us are responsible for the success of our public institutions. We need to help our leaders be the best they can be.