Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elected Officials Must Be Team Players

Community Member Question:

What quality or qualities do you expect from someone considering a council seat?

City Manager Response:

Honesty, Integrity, Courtesy and Common Sense.

This is an excellent question and one worthy of some thought. Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with a number of people who have been elected to office and I have enjoyed my interaction with all of them. I generally find that elected officials all care a great deal about the community they serve and truly desire to do the best job possible. The skills and abilities of these individuals vary greatly based upon their individual backgrounds, but I think there are a few very important qualities that a person should have to be successful in an elected position.

First, be willing to listen respectfully to both sides of an issue before making up your mind. God has given each of us two ears and one mouth for a reason and we are always better off taking the time to listen and learn before we act.

Second, you can accomplish nothing alone. You must be a team player. It takes a majority of the votes of any board to get anything accomplished and you must be willing to spend the time and effort to build a consensus on an issue if you are to have success, even when that means working with people you have had disagreements with in the past. An elected official is too burdened with responsibility to carry around personal grudges.

Third, be responsive and accessible to your constituents. If you can not defend a decision publicly to your constituents it was likely not a good decision.

Fourth, be humble enough to be willing to admit to mistakes and to take what corrective action is necessary to resolve an issue. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes at some point in their life. The biggest mistake of all is not fixing them when they happen.

Fifth, fix windows instead of throwing rocks. It is far more beneficial to the community you serve to fix problems rather than laying blame.

Lastly, be willing to communicate openly and often. In my dealings with elected officials I often remind my staff that it is our job to make sure that there are no secrets or surprises. Be willing to ask the difficult questions even if you think it may be a stupid one. If you have a question then it is very likely others do too.