Editorial: Who would you like to work for?

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

Court-mandated delays to filing periods and elections have brought confusion to a process that never seems to be free from it in North Carolina.

North Carolinians have grown well-acquainted with delays or changes because of redistricting lawsuits. This year, after judges upheld maps drawn by Republicans, the N.C. Board of Elections moved filing for 2022 elections to Feb. 24. The election will be May 17.

While people may be ready for Rowan County sheriff signs to disappear from roadsides or finally cast a ballot, the delays also mean voters have more time to evaluate what’s important to them. There’s more time to ask candidates who have already declared about policy positions or what experience is relevant to the job. Particularly in some of the hotter races on the ballot, management skills should be a trait voters value highly.

In the Rowan County sheriff’s race — the most-watched election so far — candidates will frame their experience differently, saying they’re the best because they have no law enforcement experience or because they have decades under their belt. Experience or not, critical parts of the sheriff job involve managing people, resources and relationships to ensure the department works for the public’s benefit in addition to basic law enforcement. The job also requires the sheriff forge new relationships, hire people and acquire new resources.

In the district attorney’s race, voters and candidates will undoubtedly talk about previous, current and future practices for prosecuting people accused of a crime and when plea deals are appropriate. Those are both important. Management skills are also an important factor because the county’s top prosecutor cannot handle all cases alone. The office needs to recruit and keep attorneys who can juggle caseloads that are usually large and seek justice for victims of crime.

Like most people, the district attorney also usually has to manage limited resources.

Of course, not all positions require good management skills. People can be effective county commissioners or judges without being good managers. State legislators, congressmen and senators don’t necessarily need to be good managers to achieve results for people they represent.

But management skills are undoubtedly key to positions like the sheriff and district attorney as well as register of deeds or clerk of court — where the person is elected to lead an office instead of pass bills or advocate for certain positions.

Elected officials work for the public, but when filling in a bubble on a ballot, it may help with the decision-making process for voters to think about who they would like to work for.