The Ottumwa Courier

July 10, 2013

More choices needed at the ballot box

Ottumwa Courier

---- — Help wanted: Willing citizens to run for public office with a desire to help shape a community’s or school district’s future.

Now is the time for Ottumwans and southeast Iowans to consider running for city council or their local school board.

In years past, we’ve had large numbers of people vie for a seat on the local council or the mayor’s post. But recently, those numbers have dwindled, and few people filed the paperwork to even be considered for these important posts.

Democracy only works when we have full participation, both as candidates, and of course, as voters.

But voters are more likely to go to the polls when they have real choice in selecting a council member, mayor or school board member.

Consider what’s at stake:

For school board members, decisions about our children’s educational future is at the forefront. What happens with our children now impacts all of us in the years to come.

Decisions ranging from teacher salaries and textbook selection to whether or not to erect a new school building or maintain an existing facility are all part of a school board member’s charge.

Parents, grandparents and those interested in helping to deliver a quality education for our young people should seriously consider running for a spot on their local school board.

In Ottumwa, three seats are up for election. It would be nice to have a larger number of candidates than three people under consideration.

This is not a criticism of any incumbent, but choice is important when it comes to electing people who carry so much responsibility.

The filing period to run for school board is now through Aug. 1. The election is Sept. 10

As for the Ottumwa City Council and mayoral races, three council seats are up for election, as is the mayor’s.

Right now, we know two of the three incumbent council members will not seek re-election. And the incumbent mayor has at least one challenger this fall.

Ottumwans who are interested in growing our community, keeping watch over taxpayer dollars and helping craft ordinances that will better our town should seek public office.

Admittedly, elected office is not for the faint of heart. Oftentimes a thankless job, being a council member means dealing with criticism from your neighbors and listening to concerns about everything from trash collection, noise ordinances to spending millions on street and sewer repairs.

The mayor’s post, of course, is the symbolic face of Ottumwa and it’s important to find someone who will positively represent the community at local, state and even national functions and events.

In Ottumwa, the filing period for council member and mayoral candidates is Aug. 12-29. In other communities, the filing period is from Aug. 26 through Sept. 19. City elections are slated for Nov. 5

We know that serving on a council or school board is a time commitment, and you’ve got to do your homework when it comes to the issues at hand.

But in Ottumwa, as well as other southeast Iowa towns, there are residents who are dedicated to their communities and want to see real change.

And we also know there are those who are certainly up to the task of making a real difference — let’s just hope they will consider giving voters a choice at the ballot box this fall.