It’s kind of hard for me to believe it’s September already. It seems like only yesterday the kids were excited to get out of school for the summer. Before we turn around, the holidays will be here, and then…another new year. It will be 2008 before we know it. “Where does the time go?”—how many times did we hear that from our parents growing up? The words still ring true.
2008 will be a very important year for us. We’ll elect a new President and new legislators at the federal and state levels. An early primary may put our state in a more influential position as candidates stump for support. I thought I would take this opportunity to ponder some thoughts about those who seek elected office.
In the eight-plus years that I’ve had the opportunity to serve at the local level, I have served under two mayors and with a number of different council members. While I have not always agreed with them all, I have found them to be thoughtful and conscientious regarding their votes. Those who attain political office bear a lot of responsibility to support the wishes of those they are elected to represent. Sometimes making that determination is not an easy task. Many times, the vocal minority would seem to cloud the majority opinion. After voting on an issue, most elected officials I know feel confident that they made the best decision based on the facts as they interpret them. Even so, all elected officials are subject to criticism for the votes they cast. It’s part of the job.
But we notice how it seems like it’s getting more and more difficult to attract good, hard-working, qualified candidates to seek public office. We all know it’s not encouraging to step into the voting booth and endorse the lesser of two evils. Who wants to give a vote to someone not as a measure of support, but as a vote against another candidate?
Politics aside, when Congressman Ray LaHood leaves Washington after this term, we will be losing one of the most respected persons that Congress has had in modern times. He has earned deep respect on both sides of the aisle, which, sadly, we don’t see much of anymore. Republican, Democrat or otherwise, we will be hard-pressed to find a person of Ray’s caliber to fill that seat. With all due respect to our friends in the rest of the district, I feel it is imperative that we elect a Peorian to this position. We are still the largest metropolitan area in the state outside of Chicago, the home of Caterpillar’s world headquarters and a strong and growing downstate medical community, in addition to our robust agriculture ties. I hope everyone gets engaged in learning more about the candidates interested in this position and takes the time to go to the polls and vote, encouraging their family and friends to do the same.
In the same vein, we will also be electing or re-electing people to fill positions in Springfield. I don’t think anyone would argue the need for civility and leadership in our state capital. I hope we can continue to put quality people from our area in those positions.
So where am I going with this column? I guess I’m trying to state the obvious. Holding an elected office is a tough business. We need more good people to step up to the challenge and put integrity back into these positions. It is very hard to persuade people to give time from their careers and families to take on these jobs, subjecting themselves to the criticism and scrutiny of those who think they could do better. Instead of criticism, I would encourage more people to get involved. We need more than 20 percent of registered voters to put our representatives in office.
Challenge your peers in the business community to energize their employees to learn about the candidates and even participate in the campaign. Encourage your social and church groups to invite candidates in and ask them the tough questions in person. Engage in the process—from the presidential candidates to federal and state offices all the way down to the local level. The apathy towards public officeholders needs to change. That change can start with you. Are you willing to get involved in these important upcoming elections? Stand up and be heard. Work hard to keep strong representation right here in central Illinois. IBI