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Editorial: Got what it takes to be a candidate?

“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.”
That’s the job description for local public officials we offered a couple of years back, when candidates were filing to run for municipal offices across Rowan County. If anything, we’d say the rigors and responsibilities of being a local elected official have gotten even tougher in the interim. Just as the economic downturn has forced many families to deal with declining income and an uncertain future, municipalities are also having to make tough choices as they pare budgets and put projects on hold. Wise leadership has never been more critical.
Fortunately, we have candidates who are willing to offer themselves for public service and embrace the challenge of governing. In November, voters will fill city council slots in Salisbury and Kannapolis, as well as town boards in Spencer, East Spencer, Rockwell, China Grove, Landis, Granite Quarry and Cleveland. They also will select mayors in East Spencer, Cleveland and Kannapolis.
When it comes to ticking off the criteria for likely candidates, there are some obvious qualities public officials need: a tenacious interest in the day-to-day workings of local government, including utility services, garbage collection, law enforcement and fire protection. Economic development, revenue and spending are other areas of abiding importance to local government.
However, most candidates don’t enter office with an indepth knowledge of water lines or zoning codes. They develop expertise by studying up on the issues and seeking the opinions of colleagues and constituents. In other words, there’s a lot of on-the-job training, especially for first-time officeholders.
But what candidates should bring to office, from day one, are certain intangibles such as honesty, integrity and a selfless passion to improve the community. Good leaders are problem-solvers and innovators. To be effective, local leaders ó and those at higher levels ó also need to be good listeners, not from mere courtesy or tolerance but out of a sincere desire to seek consensus and help shape compromise.
Even in the best of times, holding local office is a tough job. It’s not for the weak willed, the faint of heart or those who simply want to maintain the status quo. If you’re willing to shoulder the responsibilities, it’s time to get involved and add your name to the list. Qualifying ends at noon Friday.
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Information about filing for municipal office is available on the Board of Elections Web site (link through the Rowan County site, www.co.rowan.nc.us). The Web site also has a list of all the municipal candidates who have filed thus far.

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