The race has officially begun.
With the passing of the Sept. 18 Nomination Day deadline for candidates to file for the upcoming municipal election, the campaign will begin in earnest. And there are lots of candidates for voters to consider.
Twenty-nine candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to seek a seat on Lethbridge City Council. That matches the number of council candidates in the 2013 election. The difference this time is there are eight women in the running, an increase from five in the previous campaign. Seven of the eight incumbents are vying for re-election, with only Bridget Mearns opting to not run again.
In the race for mayor, Chris Spearman is seeking a second term in the top job, and the addition of two late contenders — Martin Heavy Head and Robert (Bob) Janzen — ensures Spearman will have some competition.
Add to that the candidates running for school board positions, in addition to the municipal elections taking place in communities across the region, and it amounts to a long list of citizens who will be participating in the democratic process toward potentially serving in public office.
Franklin Knight Lane, an American politician who served as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior from 1913 to 1920, once noted, “A public office is not a job, it is an opportunity to do something for the public.”
Cynics might suggest those who seek political jobs are actually looking to do something for themselves, but holding public office — especially at the municipal level — isn’t all fun and games. Laurence J. Peter, a Canadian-born educator and the creator of the “Peter Principle,” was likely on the money with his assessment when he called democracy “a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.”
Those who serve on city council or town council are easily accessible targets for the criticism of people in the community who disagree with council decisions. In any community, there’s a wide range of views about what local political leaders should do or should have done, but councils can’t please everyone. Their job is to analyze the information and make the best decisions they can in the best interests of the community at large.
It’s much easier to take potshots from the sidelines than to step forward from the crowd and willingly assume the role of target. Citizens who file nomination papers are showing courage in putting themselves on the firing line to seek public office. It’s not a job for which everyone is suited, and it’s a job many of us wouldn’t want. Even those candidates who don’t wind up winning are playing an important role in the democratic process. They help to raise issues of public concern and spur discussion on those issues. In doing so, they help make their community a better place.
All those candidates who have volunteered to run for major, councillor or school trustee are performing a valuable community service, and they are deserving of our thanks and appreciation.