Many people are dissatisfied with the state of their local government. Some choose to stay silent, others gripe on social media, while even more active citizens decide to attend city council meetings and air their concerns. However, this doesn’t always lead to results.
The best way to enact change in your community is to join the local government. Being part of your local government affords you the position to represent the interests of the people you align with in your community. However, any level of politician knows that politics is a game full of finesse and strategy. It isn’t for the weak of mind, and it’s best to never enter the race unprepared. Allow us to break down what you need to know before running for local office.
1. Have Proper Qualifications
While many idealists feel as though they possess the prowess and foresight to sculpt a governing body, qualifications are needed to secure an election. This doesn’t necessarily mean having proper formal education. (Afterall, a Minnesota dog was elected mayor three times.) It means that you need to have an awareness of the concerns of your community so that you are able to adequately address them at public forums such as debates.
Be aware of the issues that are occurring around town and listen to the changes that people want to see in their community. Remember, if you become an elected public official, it is your job to represent the interests of the people, so it’s vital to be aware of what exactly that entails.
2. Secure Yourself a Spot
At the most basic level, this means ensuring that you are eligible to run for the office you desire. Residency is needed in order to run for local government. Though this may seem obvious, this detail has gone overlooked by some in the past, so make sure you fulfill any necessary requirements needed to run for local government.
Next it’s critical to secure yourself a spot on the ballot. Different states have different requirements for getting on local ballots. Often this requires a certain amount of signatures, so ensure that any requirements are met by given deadlines. Additionally be sure to complete all necessary paperwork on time. If you don’t fulfill the formalities, your election won’t even have a chance.
3. Learn How to Talk
Yes, we’ve likely all mastered this task as small children, but if you seek to become an elected public official, it’s vital to always carry yourself in a certain way. This means that you have to scrub your social media clear of anything controversial or offensive and be conscious that everything you post or say can and likely will be scrutinized by your opponents.
Negotiations training is a critical business skill that all politicians will benefit from mastering. Your political game will be tremendously improved if you learn how to interact with others in a way that is structured towards reaching a solution. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner and be aware that if elected, you will become a representation of your city.
4. Manage Campaign Finances
Campaigns require money, so be prepared to pull a team together and devote all of your free time to meeting with potential donors and making phone calls. Find a campaign manager to help with publicity such as commercials, campaign materials, and advertising.
At the same time, you also have to be aware of legal financial limitation of your campaign. Election laws must be adhered to in order to keep your campaign legal. Finding yourself a trusted treasurer to manage your campaign finances and a lawyer to consult about grey areas are both excellent moves to make when building a successful campaign.
You don’t want to go into heavy debt just for the campaign. Imagine going into deep debt because you couldn’t raise enough money, then you lost, then you have to consult a credit repair services company just to get yourself back out of the hole you dug. Keep your finances straight, and you will be more confident and less stressed.
5. Be Confident in Your Decision
Becoming an elected public official is a time consuming and often costly process. It often entails having a campaign team, and it also requires inviting the public into your personal life. Even if you try to remain discreet, once you put your name on the ballot, the prying public will feel invited into your life. Be prepared for any past secrets to resurface and know how to face them.
Also be aware of the scrutiny you are essentially inviting upon your family, and verify that your spouse or significant other and children are prepared to be in the public eye. Before making your decision official, test the waters and be sure that running for office is the right move for you. Verify that your campaign is headed on the right track before going public with your decision.