As you might imagine, local elections are a very busy time for community newspapers. Candidate forums, questionnaires, photos and results are the name of the game during May each year. As such, it tends to make my focus a bit narrow. I’m concerned about getting all the information out there, but at times I fail to step back and take a look down the road.
I wonder if the candidates are like this, too?
Well, the elections are over, done, finished. Congratulations to Sharon Weideman and Jason Kaiser who won city council seats in Melissa, and to Billy Plake and Russell Moore who won council seats in Van Alstyne. Weideman and Plake were incumbents trying to retain their seats, while Kaiser and Moore were looking to get on council.
Congratulations also to Van Alstyne’s new mayor, Teddie Ann Salmon. Salmon, like Weideman and Plake, was campaigning for a spot she’s served in before but like Moore and Kaiser was not an incumbent. Confusing? She was mayor of Van Alstyne years earlier but not this last term.
Now that the campaign dollars have stopped flowing and the lawn signs are being pulled up, I urge these new candidates to do the one thing citizens and journalists expect and deserve: be transparent. Too often city governments will do the bare minimum in posting meetings, for example, merely trying to satisfy legal minimum requirements. That’s not good enough. No one is going by City Hall on Friday night or the weekend to see if there are any 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper with special meeting information tacked to the wall. That is what city websites should be for, and it is what we as citizens deserve. We shouldn’t be surprised to know that our council members met at 8 a.m. on Monday morning to discuss an issue that demanded a special session in the first place.
Candidates, remember who you serve. Just because you’re shut in a council work room doesn’t mean you’re on an island. The best interests of all those who elected you — and even those who didn’t — should be sitting right there with you at that table.
And my final advice to new and returning council members? Stay positive. Not everyone is going to agree with every decision you make, but as long as you make that call with doing the right thing in mind then there should be no regret.
Best of luck to you, candidates. Keep your public in the loop, let us see the process and, above all, make us proud.