Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wanted: Conscientious, honest, clear-thinking individuals who are willing to work long hours for low pay, who can tolerate near-constant scrutiny by citizens and the media, endure stinging criticism and personal attacks and yet somehow maintain an attitude of professionalism no matter what.
Not exactly the world’s most enticing job description, is it? Yet, honesty compels us to note this is part of the reality of holding public office, especially the local city council, town board and mayoral posts for which qualifying is now under way.
If you’ve been following the first filing updates in the Post, you know that quite a few people in the community are willing to offer themselves for duty, many of them, in fact, incumbents who are well acquainted with the nitty-gritty realities of tax rates and zoning disputes. That includes the entire roster of Salisbury’s current City Council, as well as incumbents on other local boards that will be filled in the fall election.
Fortunately for voters, that means you’ll have choices to make come November.
What makes a good candidate for elected office? There are the givens, of course, such as a sincere interest in the day-to-day issues relevant to local government, such as water and sewer services, garbage collection, law enforcement and fire protection. Economic development and spending issues are two other perennial areas of critical importance to local goverment.
But some general characteristics are equally important.
Candidates can’t be expected to know everything when they take office, but constituents expect elected officials to do their homework. Obviously, candidates need to put aside personal agendas and self-interest. Regardless of their political allegiance, public officials should be whole-heartedly committed to working for the betterment of the entire community, not some particular party or interest group. Effective leadership also requires a willingness to consider different points of view รณ not from mere courtesy or polite tolerance but out of a sincere desire to do what’s best for the community in the long run. Often, that involves the ability to seek consensus and help shape compromise. Sometimes, it even means admitting you were wrong.
Candidates who possess those qualities deserve your vote. And if you believe the description fits you, and you’re willing to shoulder an often thankless but vitally important responsibility, now’s the time to step up and add your name to the filing list. Qualifying closes at noon on July 20.