Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Appreciation of Politics

Today's post comes to you from my New Conversation co-pilot, Ann Schlueter.  It's election season, and while you may find it exhausting or thrilling or just an annoyance, it matters - especially on a local level.  Thanks, Annie, for this reminder and for encouraging all those who care enough to make a difference by serving our county, region and country!

My political career started early.  I made the front page of the St. Joe News Press in 1984 holding a sign for John Ashcroft’s governor’s  race which he later won (probably due to my efforts.) After making such a splash, I kept collecting political bumper stickers on my bookcase and dutifully posting campaign signs in our yard. I’m sure the mailman and bus driver were significantly influenced.

Sometime in the late 80s, I distinctly remember a punch card booth set up for children to practice voting. I don’t remember who I voted for, but my card was yellow and I voted in the Westboro Firehouse.  It was the one and only time I used a punch card (an experience I would remember come 2000.)

In 1992, our friend and neighbor, Sam Graves, tossed his hat in the ring for State Representative. Lucky for me, I got a t-shirt and a job walking door to door in Sam’s soon to be district. We canvassed places like Hopkins, Maryville, Fairfax and other towns that summer. I loved that job… and still have the t-shirt.

Over the next few years, I declared a major in Political Science and became a career intern, working for state lobbying organizations to elected officials. I had some wonderful experiences working with and for some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever met.

Today, I’m thankful for my small glimpse into the world that is American politics, but I’m even more grateful for the last few years when I’ve had the opportunity to work hand in hand with our locally elected officials and leaders.

While I esteem all of our elected officials and admire greatly many who take up our cause on the national scene, I have a special appreciation for those who take on the heroic challenges of school board, county commission, judge, prosecuting attorney, county offices, city council, sheriff or any position of leadership in the community where they live.

In this small pond, politics is intensely personal. Our officials take the criticism face to face instead of on network television. They hear the late night phone calls about gravel on roads, the neighbor’s dog or the 7th grade teacher. They balance budgets when there just doesn’t seem to be enough. They debate what is so important to all of us in hospital conference rooms, fair board rooms or church offices instead of stadiums with red and white balloons and script writers. When something goes wrong, they don’t blame the other party. They feel the disappointment keenly when it impacts their son or daughter, their home or their church.

I want to thank them this election season, for having the courage to fight each day for a stronger, better and safer community, with little pay, little thanks and sometimes little results. I thank you for what your sacrifice of today means for my children tomorrow.

I have confidence that change, while painstakingly slow, is possible. The fruits of your labor are visible. Relationships matter. In our community, good leaders can be tremendously effective. Good decisions can have great impact.

Stay encouraged. Your work matters here.

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