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Campaigns are over; now governing begins

November 7, 2018

The historic 2018 midterm elections are finally over, and many voters (and candidates) are ready for a break. The past few weeks have been hectic, and occasionally controversial. The temptation to dial down and decompress are understandable.

Just don’t get too comfortable, elected officials or voters. The next phase of this process has already begun.

Tuesday’s winners have to shift from campaigning to governing. Instead of appealing for votes from one side of the spectrum, they now have to represent every single voter in their city, county, district or state. That includes people who didn’t for them.

If officials have a position based on service, like clerk or treasurer, they need to focus on that task and deliver for their constituents. That means having staff members answer the phone, return messages and resolve questions instead of passing the buck. Positions like this have few policy duties. Their main job is to help taxpayers, so they need to do that to the best of their abilities.

For posts like county commissioners or city council members, their duties are broader. In addition to providing services, they provide leadership for their city or county on tough issues. Do we focus this amount of money on new roads or better drainage? Their decisions have a big impact on the quality of life in their city or county. Their goal must be enhance the private sector whenever possible, without competing against it.

This does not always means bigger budgets. If your response to every problem is to hire someone or spend more money, you don’t get it. Families and businesses don’t operate like that, and you shouldn’t either. If you can keep your department’s budget level — or even decrease it — you are giving voters one more reason to re-elect you in four years.

Voters also must remain engaged with their elected officials and current issues. This election saw an impressive increase in voter awareness and turnout. That kind of excitement was invigorating. But it would be wasted if too many voters shrink back into apathy.

Go to a meeting of your city council or county commissioners. Let them know when they’re doing a good job — or messing up. Someone will motivate them in certain directions. Make sure your voice is in that choir.

If you voted this time, thanks for caring and doing. If you didn’t, we hope you feel bad about it. You should. But it would be better if you resolved to never make this mistake again.

Everyone needs to work on civility. The current angry tone in our politics is not normal, and it should not be accepted. We can disagree with the other party without doubting their sincerity or decency. You want officials from your party treated with a certain amount of respect, so make sure you extend that to the other side. If the voting didn’t turn out the way you wanted, volunteer or knock on doors next time.

We have a lot of different labels, but we are all Americans. Never forget that, and never let the haters think they’re right.

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