Local elected officials deserve credit for just showing up


There are a lot of terrible jobs in this world.

Cleaning out septic tanks. Stooped over for hours picking vegetables in fields. Cleaning the bathrooms after a rock concert. Doing the laundry for Sumo wrestlers.

Those are jobs that people do, day in and day out, and I am thankful for their hard work. They provide for their families doing something most of us wouldn’t want to do.

There is another job that I would add to this list, and it might surprise a few people. I would say that being a local elected official is pretty tough too.

Sure, these people aren’t (or shouldn’t be) providing for their families with what they make being on a local school board or city council or county board. Some make nothing, while others make a very small amount.

But it’s not about the money. It is really about two things, at least initially: Ego and helping the community. Now, before any local elected officials get upset, be honest and admit that ego is involved – at least at first. Once you have been yelled at for the fifth time that day at the local coffee shop by someone who disagreed with this vote or that, the ego thing pretty much goes away.

I have known and covered some pretty self-involved local elected officials. And they almost always suffer a pretty spectacular fall from grace. That usually takes the form of losing an election to a hated rival. I have seen it happen time and time again.

I will admit, it can be satisfying.

But generally, these are men and women who want to contribute to the school district, or board or committee is some significant way. Yes, there are some who get elected and end up doing very little. For example, when you have a county board the size of the one we have in Ogle County, some folks don’t really have to do much, other than show up at the meetings.

I will still give them credit for doing that – showing up. It is easy to berate a local school board for raising taxes, but it is harder to put your money and time where your mouth is and run for that board.

It is easy to condemn the actions of the city council, but much harder to offer to work on a citizen committee to make things better.

It is easy to make sarcastic comments to a county board member after a vote you disagree with. But running for office yourself? No thanks. That would mean you would actually have to put yourself up for criticism.

Most of us don’t like to be criticized. Generally, people have pretty thin skin. If that is you, then I would suggest you not run for office. From personal experience, I can tell you that thin-skinned people don’t do well in elected office. They take everything personally and it ends up clouding their decision-making process.

But if you can take a few verbal shots, care about the community and want to make a difference, I say run for office. It is an honorable thing to do. Too many people simply sit back and complain. That is the easy way out. That is the weak way out.

Not all local elected officials are great, but at least they put themselves out there. Can you say the same?