By AARON WALKER
After listening to the Democratic council candidates speak during the League of Women Voters forum, I was left with a glaring question: What makes someone a competent and decent public official?
The candidates touted their accomplishments at the lab, the military, and small business ownership as some of the things that “qualify” them to be county councilors. Do these things qualify someone to be an elected official?
Working at the lab does not provide any real benefit or qualification towards being a county councilor. Being in a leadership position at the lab and being a public official are two completely different roles. Telling people what to do (or being told what to do) is not the same as representing thousands of people within the community. In this community most of the people running for office are going to be or have been affiliated with the lab at some point, so touting that as a qualification is worthless.
Mr. Roberson touted his many years as a Marine as a qualifier for office. This is the one topic I tend to agree with, but I may have a bias due to being retired Navy. Service to the country gives a person significant credibility to me. Most people that have served in the military have a genuine care for their country, their community, and the people living in it. They have political leanings that influence their decisions, but their overall desire is to help the people where they live. That desire is what gives military experience a boost to the “qualifications” question.
Being a small business owner provides a unique perspective on the needs of the county. There are many factors that go in to owning a business, many of which are vastly different from being a resident of the county. Does being a business owner “qualify” you for office? No, but the perspective of a small business owner is unique and needed on the council.
Three qualities are paramount to a county councilor in my eyes: Empathy, Integrity, and Listening. To be a good representative, a person must be able to understand and share the feelings of others regardless of political affiliation. That means caring for people that may have different struggles or beliefs than you do.
This isn’t something that can be learned or taught, it’s innate. Integrity means doing the right thing when nobody is looking. It also means that your word means something. Listening is extraordinarily important. You must be willing to listen to people that are struggling, frustrated, and tired of the way things are.
Notice that nothing I listed had ANYTHING to do with politics or party affiliation. That is because this is about being caring enough to make hard choices to improve our quality of life. It is about effectively and respectfully representing the people that vote for you AND that don’t vote for you. It’s about making a better community. Remember that in June, as well as November.