Thousands of cities and towns across the nation elect a mayor and a city council. Most have a city manager-city council form of government such as we have here in Keizer.
City manager Chris Eppley oversees the directors of the city’s departments: administration, community development, public works, finance and more. The operation of the city gets done with these departments and their leaders.
What these departments manage is generally at the direction of the city council, which sets policy in all areas of the city. That makes the city council important when it comes to current issues and especially the future of Keizer.
In recent years, Keizer city council elections have been more like coronations as too many council races have had one candidate. In contrast, during the first two decades of citydom, races for mayor and city council seats attracted multiple entrants.
One could argue that life today is much more complicated compared with the early 1980s; activities and commitments take up so much of our time that many feel they have no time to devote to a two- or four-year political job. Voting in elections, especially on the local level, is as involved as most people get. But there are other ways to have a say in how one’s hometown is operated: run for public office as a city council candidate.
With this path anyone can become a ‘They.’ Being a ‘they’ doesn’t have to be negative or nefarious, becoming a ‘they’ means that a ‘me’ will have a place at the table where decisions about the city are made. The job of city councilor is rewarding. Whether one believes Keizer should stay quaint and mid-sized, or that Keizer’s growth should be maintained in a beneficial way, there is room for those views on council.
In most instances the people who are elected to the city council are those who come from the grassroots. Keizer is a city of neighborhoods and that is where are government leaders come from.
What does it take to run and be elected to the city council? It takes the belief that one would be a good addition to the council, that their background and experience would bring a unique perspective to that body’s deliberations. And to win? It takes votes, pure and simple. That means asking people for their vote either through door-to-door canvassing, advertising or both.
Every potential city councilor is part of a group—a service club, a sports organization, a school, etc. This is the base—the people most likely to support a candidacy of ‘one of ours.’
Some may think that running for public office costs lots of money, funds that have to be raised. To run in a local election is fairly inexpensive. The hard costs include placing information in the Voter’s Pamphlet. Softer costs can include yard signs and advertising, but those are not required.
Some campaigns need only one issue to be successful. In the early 1970s there was an unknown woman running for California secretary of state. Her issue? Getting rid of pay toilets in public places such as airports. It was an issue that resonated with voters and she went on to serve 20 years in that office. All because of one issue.
Closer to home, some past Keizer city councilors owe their election to a single issue, such as sidewalks. There are issues that can be used as a campaign platform; some people have been elected to council with a promise to keep an eye on the city’s budget.
With Keizer’s future in the balance, the next city council will grapple with some big issues. Some of those issues will be resolved in a way that will anger some residents and please others. That is how democracy works, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you don’t win if you don’t play.
Morphing from a ‘Me’ to a ‘They’ is good thing when it means you help your community.