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Thanked your locally elected officials today?

In our opinion, there are a few high-profile jobs within local government that are thankless. Two of them are the positions of superintendent of schools and city manager. These positions must act as moderators between elected officials and paid staff, while representing the values of the community at large.

When something goes right, either it doesn’t get noticed because it was seamless or other people (elected officials/paid staff) get the credit. However, if something goes wrong, like a budget deficit or legal entanglement, fingers instantly point straight to the top dog.

But, we don’t feel too sorry for them. People in those positions accept the challenges (perhaps, even thrive on them) and get compensated justly for them.

What is sometimes a truly thankless job is that of elected officials on a city council, local district commission or school board. For a term of four years or more, these residents volunteer to give up their family time to wade through volumes of budgets, spreadsheets and legal documents — most of which would put the normal person to sleep. They get to discuss policy, equity and what is in the best interest of the public. Most times, they get it right; sometimes they don’t.

But what we shouldn’t lose sight of is the fact that these folks are our friends, our family members and our neighbors.

Some decisions that elected officials must make are difficult and have no chance of making everyone happy. Whether it is adding language-immersion programs in the schools or cutting programs and staff at city hall, not every change will be embraced by all residents.

Sometimes members of a small, vocal minority start raising their voices and spreading rumors. Sometimes, in blaming individuals, they misrepresent their own neighbors on issues.

We just had an election in Clackamas County for some hotly contested seats on the Gladstone, North Clackamas, Oregon City school boards, the Clackamas Community College Board, the Clackamas Fire Board, and the Clackamas River Water and Oak Lodge Water boards. Thirty brave souls offered up their time for these boards in the interest of serving the community and preserving, as well as growing, what is great in the community.

Although the Democratic Party celebrated that their picks won in North Clackamas on May 21, don’t start thinking that local politics should be partisan. Former Milwaukie City Councilor Greg Chaimov, for example, a registered Independent, was just elected to the CCC Board. These boards generally don’t discuss partisan issues such as abortion, gun laws and immigration, but rather focus on the nuts and bolts of trying to provide good water, fire service and educational opportunities locally.

As new members join these boards, learn the ropes and get up to speed, we hope the community gives them support and respect. Though we don’t anticipate drama any time soon, as districts are in fine shape under solid leadership and communicative boards, we want to remind the general public — if you wish to criticize their work or their decisions, step up, take a chance and make the commitment yourself. In addition to speaking up at public hearings and writing letters to the editor of your local paper, go ahead and volunteer on district advisory boards and budget committees.

Mahatma Gandhi has been credited for saying, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” In our opinion, that is exactly why mayors, city councilors and school-board members decide to run for election. In fact, many elected officials contend their elected roles are filled with rewards.



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  • 24 Oct 2014

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