October, 2013, will once again see elections all across the province of Alberta for all levels of municipal councils and school boards. Because of recent changes in provincial legislation, all terms will now be for four years. The longer term increases the need to make sure that our elected representatives are individuals who can and will fill their positions capably and sensitively. Now is the time to make sure that there is at least one quality candidate running for each position, and everyone can help make that happen.
Understanding and accepting all of the job is the first minimal condition. Before every council or board meeting, a quality elected representative will spend time carefully reading the minutes of the last meeting and carefully reading all of the background information about the items on this meeting's agenda. Quality councillors and school trustees willingly do their share of the extensive work done outside of meetings, knowing that if they don't do their share, it puts an extra burden on their colleagues. First, they must do their fair share of work on council or board committees, sub-committees and ad hoc committees. They must act as representatives to a fair share of the many other boards and councils which their council or board supports or closely interacts with, such as library boards, recreation boards, other local governments and federal and provincial levels of government. They must take their turn as the deputy reeve or mayor, vice chair, second in command, as determined by the council or board on which they serve. They must attend zone and provincial workshops and conferences which are each two to four heavy days filled with an intense day-time schedule of learning sessions and evenings of strategic networking. They must attend a considerable number of public functions, whether sponsored by charities, not-for-profit service groups, their own council or board, or special events such as commercial or other grand openings, anniversaries, or award presentations. Once elected, they will get calls at home, queries at chance encounters on the street, when shopping, or at special events. Once elected, they represent their elected position everywhere they go at all times. Be sure that there is a candidate in your area who is committed to fulfilling all of the responsibilities, with no predetermined limits.
Quality candidates will already have a recognizable set of characteristics. They are team players who bring knowledge, logic, common sense, intelligence, passion, integrity, and faith to their every endeavour. They will come with a positive attitude and an open mind eager to learn. They will treat others with respect, acceptance and appreciation. When a course of action is suggested or a decision is being discussed, they will try to recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal, and will work as a team to tweak good ideas to make them excellent. In the process, they will be concerned as to how a proposal will affect the whole area of their responsibility, the whole city, town, county, school district etc., and especially how it will affect the less advantaged such as seniors or the disabled. They will have the intelligence to be capable of grasping the big picture and of understanding how details interact with that whole and its parts. When they don't understand, they will actively seek to learn from the expertise, experience and knowledge of others. They will be the kind of people who bring out the best in those around them, who enhance the creativity and quality of thinking in their colleagues. They will lead through service.
Characteristics that need to be avoided in candidates must also be recognized. A negative, critical approach is the most common and most destructive characteristic which must be avoided. In a group, one person with a negative attitude, even if it is only expressed by body language, slows down the mental processes of the whole group, reduces the creativity and ability to expand ideas or come up with new ones, so ends up with decision-making requiring more time with poorer results. Voters must realize that people are not created intellectually equal, that often people who do not have the intellect to understand the whole situation may still think they know it all, but actually become frustrated in their lack of understanding and lash out with a negative attitude toward most governmental decisions and especially toward truly competent people and groups. To elect such a person means reducing the quality of functioning in the council or board as a whole, making team-work a struggle, slowing discussions, lowering the quality of decisions. When negative individuals are elected, they also tend to ignore the many opportunities to learn. They tend to skip some or all of the workshops and conferences where they could learn more about the way the council or board, of which they are a member, should function. They tend to disregard basic rules of governance, one of which states that after a decision is made by a majority vote, everyone, absolutely everyone, on that council or board must pull together and support that decision. Opposition must stop once a decision is made and thereby becomes council or board policy.
Therefore, now is the time to seek out quality candidates for the October municipal and school board elections. The longer four year term they will serve makes it even more important that we, the voters, elect people of quality who are team players capable of understanding, cooperating, and developing excellent policies. (We must also understand that no one can please all of the people all of the time.) We need to seek individuals who will commit to doing the whole job, people with knowledge, logic, common sense, integrity, passion, faith and respect for all. We must avoid anyone who has an axe to grind, sees only one issue as important, is negative, complaining, and destructive. If the right people with the right qualities don't seem interested, we can give them the encouragement and support to help them see how very much they are needed. May there be quality candidates running for all positions in the fall elections.