Voting is Critical

The lineup is set.
Many “pull” papers but only those who gather the requisite signatures of registered voters get to appear on the March 14 ballot.
And so we have two Delray City Commission races to watch over the next few weeks.
For Seat 2,  Jim Chard, a long time community volunteer and member of several boards will run against Kelly Barrette, a founder of TakeBack Delray, a Facebook page and Richard Alteus and Anneze Barthelemy.

For Seat 4, 38 year resident Shirley Johnson is running against Josh Smith, another long time resident and retired educator.
For this go round, I will leave my personal opinions out of the mix.
But there are a few general points that need to be made.
First, elections matter.
A lot.
Not just on a national and state level but also on a local level, where it’s possible that city government impacts our lives as much or more than larger and more heavily covered governments.
From kitchen permits and land use policy to whether your city will have culture and a sense of community, local government swings a big bat.
I happen to believe it’s the best form of government, large enough to be interesting and small enough get your arms around and make a real and lasting difference. But there’s an ‘if’ attached to that last sentence.
You can only make a difference if you understand the city you seek to lead and if you have the capacity to listen and collaborate. You can only succeed if you have an  open and curious mind that allows you to grow as a policy maker, evolve as a leader and drum roll please…even change your mind if you hear evidence that sways you.
And you can only make a difference if you understand the job you are running for; its possibilities and its limits.
We have a charter in Delray that defines our form of government which happens to be a council/manager form.
That means that the mayor and commission sit as a board of directors, setting policy, making decisions and holding staff accountable for achieving results and delivering services efficiently, timely, ethically and within a budgetary framework set by the commission. (Hopefully, that budget reflects the priorities of citizens and the commissioners that represent them).
It’s a leadership role, at times a sales role (you should sell your city to prospective residents and investors for instance) and at times you are called upon to be a cheerleader, protector and advocate.
It can be exciting and rewarding and also sad, lonely and stressful–sometimes in the same day.
And so much more.
The opportunities are enormous if you choose to grow. I’m sometimes amazed at those who are given the opportunity but refuse to engage, grow and expand their thinking. And I’m delighted when I see the elected official who rises to the occasion.
Sadly, that has become rare these days–at all levels. And that’s why people are so frustrated with politics. Because if elected officials step up–and dive into the experience they can make a profound difference. They can touch lives. They can get things done. They can create value–or they can squander the opportunity.
Public service is an opportunity to build community and connect to people. You can’t do one without the  other.
Look for candidates that seek to connect, beware of candidates who label, divide and demonize.
Because if you connect by opening your heart and mind you can’t help but succeed.
We need our elected officials to succeed. So much is possible if they do so. If they fail, it’s hard for our city to succeed.
So the stakes are high. Vote accordingly.

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