It’s Friday, 7 October: tomorrow we hear the results of the local body elections. Tomorrow our city’s elected leaders for the next three years are decided.
Looking back over the last six months, it’s been an amazing journey. Kelly Dugan (standing for the District Health Board) said recently that everyone should run for elected office once in their lives: you learn so much about yourself, and so much about others. How true.
So, what have I learned?
I’ve learned that seeking office is actually really hard work. We call our politicians lazy, and perhaps some of them are. But those who are serious about getting elected work to make it happen. Which is as it should be: if you can’t put the effort into getting elected, why would people trust you to put any effort in once you are elected.
I’ve learned that it’s a ‘people’ role: if you struggle to meet people, you really shouldn’t seek office. It might seem obvious. But again, some in politics seem to forget that it’s people who elected them/ us. So, meeting and talking to people is essential. All the banners, posters, bill boards and letters make little difference unless you go out and meet the people.
I’ve learned that people are incredibly respectful if your integrity is evident. They listen politely to speeches; read carefully the information you give them; stand at their front door while you talk about their community. Even when they don’t agree, they value integrity and really want you to do well. But they can spot a fake a kilometre off: tell them only what they want to hear, and you’ll soon be shown the door. I’ve seen a few aspiring representatives fall into the mistake of promising everything their audience wants: and feel the burn as a result. Don’t do it!
I’ve learned also that it’s about the people. Their hopes, their dreams, their concerns, their ambitions – not ours. They put us there to represent them, not ourselves. Of course, we have ideas and vision. We have concerns. We have hopes: that’s what we should be telling people about. But the genuine elected representative listens at least twice as much as they speak. Again, obvious you’d think. But not everyone who puts themselves forward remembers to listen more than they speak.
And finally I’ve learned that each person has a story to tell. And those stories are deep and profound, if you take the time to listen. And the more you listen, the more humbling the notion of representing that person becomes.
So, to all who have been part of this journey: thank you. I’ve learned a great deal, that I will take with me into tomorrow - whether or not it is the Council table. And that has made it fully worth while.