Monday, July 23, 2007

Dear Gadabout Jack: Politics

Dear Gadabout Jack,

It is ironic that as I'm contemplating a run for my local government that you have addressed Citizenship and Leadership in your columns. The tiny town I live in (8000 people) has a Board of Selectmen (BOS) that act as the managing team. There is also a Town Manager that weighs in on some decisions. The BOS has not been as transparent about their dealings as I would like and I want to change that.

My trepidation is this: I've got two little kids (boys 5 and 6) and I know that this position, on top of a full time 50-60 hour-per-week job will take me away from them. Is that worth it? My wife is less than thrilled that I am looking into this as well.

My feeling is that I have more common sense then the members on that board and I can do better then them. I guess the decision comes down to how much crummy leadership I can take until the kids don't care about me, and then I'll make a move towards action.

Eager upstart politician in a Tiny Town

Dear Upstart: First off, Gadabout firmly believes that family comes first! Don’t ever forget that. But let’s not lose sight of what a tight family unit can accomplish as a team. The wife is part of that team. Look, good wives raise the kids and the father is pretty much just the figure head. Your kids are already in school, so that leaves plenty of time for your life long mate to take on added responsibilities. Empower your wife to raise the family while you take on the thrill of the hunt, the adventure and the election!

Listen, do you want to be the kind of dad who comes home at 6:00 PM, mows the lawn wearing black socks and sandals, and then forces the kids to study before they hit the rack? No, of course you don’t, because you are a man. It is not surprising that your wife is not thrilled with this idea because it means more work for her and it is YOU who will reap all the glory of success. This might lead to difficult times ahead in your relationship, but when this happens just remind her that you made a vow to stick with her through “good times and bad.” If she gets really upset, then you might want to buy her jewelry, a new car or a complete spa treatment.

Okay, the premise is that you are seriously considering a bid. Gadabout has some background in politics since he was on a failed campaign staff for a US House seat back in ’96. What I took away from that experience was that politics is nasty—really nasty. So fasten your seat belt and be prepared to drive your SUV into a brick wall at 100 mph and pray that the airbags are operational.

Here are a few pointers, and it mostly boils down to research and subtle actions:

Fully understand the organization of the local governmental structures. From what you mentioned, you may have underestimated the roll of the city manager. You must read and understand the charters, budgets, limitations of power for all the players, and ordinances. You must understand informal structures and behind the scenes actors too.

Get to know the backgrounds, habits, lifestyles and family members of major players. It is a small town, so it is very likely that you are already connected to them through church, school and other communication nodes. If you can say to one of them, “hey, I saw your son Billy hit that home run last night, please tell him I pass my congratulations,” then you are moving in the right direction.

Remember, this is a small town, and if you haven’t paid your dues regarding length of residency, you’ll be fighting an up hill battle. McCain tackled this obstacle when he ran for his first house seat in Arizona. His opponent made the mistake of challenging him on his newly established residency, from which he replied (I am not quoting here, so don’t hold me to task on this!), “yes, I am new to Arizona, but I spent the past 30 years of my life serving my country in the United States Navy and 7 of those years were spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.” How do you fight that come back?

Your wife MUST take on a civic role. It could be something as simple as president of the gardening club, or as significant as the City Manager’s Chair for improving education.

You need to be seen too. Attend open forums of debate and ask ONE respectful, soft, yet important question concerning policy. Be polite! Ramp up over time, but never take on a disrespectful platform.

Discover your platform. Make a list of what you see is right, and what you view as wrong. From that list create 3 positions of change, and know every aspect of those three planks. Then make a list of three aspects of the community that is GOOD. Know these positives like the back of your hand. Your final list is based upon what you value. Your values will drive your repeated rhetoric and keep your message focused.

I think that’s enough for one morning of advice. Remember, Dale Carnegie once said, “If you want to get something done, look for a busy person.” The task at hand is enormous, and I applaud you for your aspirations. The road ahead is dark and treacherous—good luck.

Oh, and one final point. Don’t start writing a blog that takes pot shots at the media, women or marriage—it will come back to haunt you.

Gadabout Jack


Anonymous said...

What century are you living in...."the wife raises the children". Come on - get with it - that is how the old school parents live not in today's world. It should be a 50/50 deal - especially if the wife works! Even if the wife doesn't work and "family comes first" then you are telling this man that his wife should support him no matter what and just deal with it. I don't think so. Marriage is about compromise, negotiation and doesn't sound like any of those things are being taken into consideration.

Gadabout Jack said...

I live in the 21 first century. Marriage is a legal matter. As for the 50/50, it all works out over time. If YOU wanted to run for office, then I bet you would demand compromise. Men have been taking a beating for too long. Get hip, and stop being a baby. Grow up! Life is too short--go change a diaper.