By Linda Powers Bilanchone,
Past-President, League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County
On Saturday, May 11, from 8:30 am to noon, the League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County is offering a free workshop on how to run for an elected office or get appointed to an appointed office. The workshop, “Ready..Set...RUN!!!” will take place at the downtown campus of Spartanburg Community College, 220 East Kennedy Street, Spartanburg; it is non-partisan and open to the public.
Democracy is about the people’s choice. Elections are about the people’s choice. But how can the people choose if there is only one candidate for an office?
When you think of the League of Women Voters, you probably think of members finding a variety of ways to get people registered to vote and then another effort to get them out to vote on election day. Yes, that is what we do year in and year out. However, registering and voting is only meaningful when the voter has a choice! And, of course, the choice comes when two or more candidates offer for the same office. Then the voter has a choice!
If we are to honor the notion of choice, then we must find more candidates to run for office. So, another way to make democracy work is to urge citizens to consider running for office – local, state and national. People choose from a variety of ways to be of service to their community. One very significant way that is often overlooked is running for public office. I say running for public office because that is the only way you can win! And even if you don’t win, you have given the voting public a choice and that is very, very important. And, you might find that it is an enjoyable way to be of service. The truth is that you don’t always have to run for office; you can be appointed and for many future elected officials, being an appointed official is the way they get started. The City of Spartanburg has a number of boards and commissions to which you can be appointed; the County of Spartanburg also has boards and commissions to which you can be appointed --- and they deal with a variety of different subjects --- human relations, building regulations, historic preservation. You name it! I bet you can find something you would enjoy doing. You can go to the city’s website or the county’s website to see what might be available. And, by available, I mean that you will find that not all seats on every board are filled; the City Council or County Council has not been able to find anyone to fill that position. Maybe it could be you. It might be just as simple as letting your City Council representative or County Council representative know that you would like to serve.
Now, running for an elected position is admittedly a bigger commitment. You will probably have to raise some money and put together a team to help you educate the voters in your district about who you are and what you intend to do as an elected official. But that doesn’t need to be extensive or expensive – especially in a local race – and it is entirely within the range of possibility. In fact, it can be enjoyable. If you enjoy talking to your neighbors and friends, you will probably enjoy campaigning – especially, if you can find a good and trusted friend who will “run” the campaign for you leaving you free to interact with potential voters.
Furthermore, being in appointed or elected office is a continuing education for you. You have an opportunity to learn about the subject matter that your board handles; you learn about how the local government works; you might even get interested enough to run for a higher office! Of course, with most boards and commissions, there is no salary for those who serve, but sometimes there are trips to other places to learn new ways of doing things or a small expense stipend. And, surprisingly, there are salaries in some cases --- City of Spartanburg Commission of Public Works and the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District board are examples of boards with salaries; school boards are an example of boards without salaries.
The League’s workshop on May 11 includes a presentation on opportunities for appointment and how to run for office as well as a keynote address by Hope Blackley of Congressman Timmons’ office. Come on out; this is an opportunity for you to help give people a choice in our elections!
This FREE workshop is non-partisan and open to the public, but to be sure necessary materials are on hand for you please register at EventBrite.