It’s not too late. In bigger centres, the earlier you start the better your chances for success. Some may even say it’s your duty.
I’m talking about the October municipal elections. Every city, town, village, and rural county or municipal district will be looking for a few good men (and women). Unfortunately, in 2007 women will still be the minority. Ladies, it’s time to step up.
In 1993, then-Lamont County Reeve Ed Stelmach ran for a provincial seat. He won that election and the rest is history.
His decision triggered a by-election. A couple I respected approached me to run. “Are you crazy? I hate politics,” was my gut reaction. They kept talking. The county needs someone like you; they need another woman; it’s a great learning experience; you can do it.
I didn’t sleep that night. Or the next few. I talked to Roy; my kids; my parents, Ed and Marie. Eventually I decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I decided not just to run but to win. I began planning and enlisting the help of friends, family, and neighbours. I collected my five signatures, paid my $100, and filed the nomination papers on the appointed day in September. With help I covered the entire division, visiting every household and asking for support. On October 5, 1993, I beat three men to win the seat. I believe I simply outworked them.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. If you love to learn, like rising to the challenge, love meeting new people, seeing and doing new things, politics may be for you. If you want to influence decisions, get things done, serve your community, politics may be for you. It is an education like no other.
If you hate lobbying efforts, backroom deals, and hypocrisy, stay away. I (wrongly) believed that if you work hard, come early, stay late, read the meeting package, ask probing questions, consider the recommendations of the bureaucrats, look at the big picture, be fiscally prudent, do your due diligence and act with courage, ratepayers will understand the tough decisions and support you. Wrong.
I believed if you explained things truthfully, said it clearly enough and often enough, you could make anyone understand anything. Wrong. Some people can’t get it, others choose not to. I found myself growing up and growing cynical. It was an education in human nature like no other.
As someone who’s won an election and lost an election, winning is decidedly better. In 1995, during the early days of the Klein revolution and with everyone hurting, there was a huge turnover province-wide as taxpayers struck back at the closest targets. There is not quite so public a defeat as losing an election. Luckily, it doesn’t kill you. Hurts like hell, but not fatal.
I have no regrets. I’ve done my time. It’s not too late for you, however, from where I sit.