This blog post has been submitted by Carla Howatt, Municipal Councillor in Strathcona County, Alberta. Carla was elected in 2013, and is ‘retiring’ after one 4-year term.
Here are some tips Carla (and I) think new candidates should know while out on the campaign trail.
So, you have read Danikloo’s Five Terrible Reasons to Run for Municipal Office and Six Awesome Reasons to Run for Municipal Office and have decided you know what to expect and you are up for the job.
As someone who has been down this road, I would like to share with you some tips I wish I had known in 2013:
You Will Never Know for Sure What Happened to Your Signs
Why have your signs disappeared, been knocked down or defaced? they may have been knocked over in the wind, some teenagers may have decided to play with them or maybe an over-zealous member of your competitor’s team took them down. Whatever happened with them, keep quiet and don’t lose any sleep over it. If you speak up and accuse – barring any photographic evidence – you will look and sound bitter and a bit paranoid. In the scheme of things? Let karma deal with it.
Your Competitor is Not the Devil
Sometimes when people are feeling insecure, they feel the need to knock down their competitor in order to build themselves up. Resist the urge. I have never met a politician who was the devil. They may have some attributes of the horned man, but without fault, I have never met one who didn’t care about their community. Don’t get into the negative headspace of vilifying someone as it will take up energy and focus you need to get the job done. Keep positive and talk about what you can offer, not what someone else has done wrong or their past foolish behaviour.
Municipal Politics is Not a Team Sport
Sure, it is nice to feel part of something, but creating slates or “us” vs. “them” will inevitably come back and bite you. Why? Because not every member of your slate will be elected into office. That means you will have to work with their opposition. Take it from someone who knows, this will make it much harder to do your job if you become a councillor or mayor.
The World is Still Revolving
I know it is hard to believe, but not everyone is holding their breath and watching the election closely. The majority of the population (historically in Alberta, about 70%) is oblivious to your engagement in this contest. Except they notice the signs. And curse them. It is important to keep this in mind in order to keep some perspective. While you will invest a lot of time, effort and probably money into this, it is not life or death. Make sure you take time out with your family and build in rest days where you can focus on anything but the election.
Whether you are elected or not, you are now part of a select portion of the population who has taken the plunge and put their name forward in an election. This may be your first and it may or may not be your last so take the time to enjoy the walks, spending time with friends and family who are helping you. Don’t be in a rush at the doors but get to know people and really listen. Your view of the world and your community will never be quite the same.