ELECTION 2007

There hasn’t been much talk around town yet, but election season is coming, or is in fact here.  I am talking about my area of course, Chapel Hill Town Council.  For those of you that would be interested in running, I have some advice and perspective. 

#1—  I don’t know who is going to run this coming year.  I don’t know anyone on the council that has said officially they are going to run again.   The seats up this year are:  Kevin Foy (who must run every 2 years as the mayor always does); Sally Greene, Bill Strom, Jim Ward, and Cam Hill.  It seems like yesterday to me that I saw their campaign signs up.

#2—This is a time consuming job.  I’m amazed at my weekly schedules, frankly.  In addition to town council, I work as a dentist four days a week, have 2 small children, and a husband, and 2 cats.  And a life?  Not much of one.  I try to go running most days, and that’s about it for fun.  Lately I haven’t been doing much of that.    Thankfully I have alot of energy usually to carry me on.  I actually find that I will need to cut back my regular job work schedule more in order to balance the Town Council work with everything else.  Should Town Council take up this much time?  One can spend 20 to 40 hours per week.  That limits many people from even thinking about running.  I think that’s too bad.  I think we need to become more efficient at our meetings and our scheduling.  Right now the council is working on “agenda process review”, so I’m hoping to see more of this efficiency in the future.  We’ll see.

#3—What an awesome sense of responsibility and commitment, but it should come naturally and you should want to do this.  If you are considering running for council, you are very much attuned to current town events and you probably come to occasional council meetings to voice opinions on matters that you care about.  You probably already spend time on town issues in some form or fashion.    Prepare to spend the time and thought and energy on those issues that have been important to you.  And remember that it’s four years.

#4—Don’t stress about the $$ for the campaign.  Fundraising can be onerous and in the beginning, overwhelming.  I still have money in my campaign bank left over—but I didn’t really have a target number when I started.  I knew generally how much things cost to get my word/face/name out—newspaper ads, radio, mailings, signs, etc.  Personal budgeting and planning is key.   So my first major expense was the campaign sign—I checked with the planning department on rules when the first day they could be placed, and got those out on the first day possible.  I was running as a non-incumbent, and I had to work extra hard for my name recognition. Those first signs, placed in the right places, was a good start and a good investment.  I spent roughly $600-700 on those signs.  By the way, the total amount of my campaign expenditures was in the upper 3’s (3K).  Additional expenses (and not in any order) were a booth at Festifall, mailings that went out to various areas, and in the end (like the last 2 weeks or so) I spent several hundred dollars on newspaper ads.  I had a campaign website that was run for about $26 a month.  But you know what?  More than the money, it counts to get out there and meet people and understand their concerns and hopes for you if you are elected.  That was my most valuable experience.  There are many, many forums to attend, and this is when you can meet different people from different neighborhoods, etc.  It’s actually fun, but very time consuming.

#5—I want to speak up for the women in the world, here.  We need more talented, committed, professional women in local/national government.  Hooray for Nancy Pelosi, who my little girls now know very well.  What an historical event for women!  and although her new position got some press, it was not celebrated enough for its historical relevancy.  I hope that women, even if they have young children, feel they can do this job.  They can.  If I can do it, with 2 kids under the age of 9 and another job,  you can do it.  My family supports my efforts, which is wonderful and I’m grateful for it and without that I could not do all of this. 

That’s it for now.  I hope to see many interested in running for Town Council.  It’s a very meaningful, rewarding experience.

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13 responses to “ELECTION 2007

  1. Great advice Laurin and an excellent kick in the pants to get what little I learned on the campaign trail out into the public domain.

  2. Pingback: Citizen Will

  3. Does “great advice” mean you are running, Will? 🙂

  4. Here is a news release that the Community Action Network has put out for those interested in running for local office:
    News Release

    April 13, 2007

    Thinking about running for local elected office? Like the sound of “Mayor” in front of your name? Interested in working on a campaign? Then come to the Campaign and Elections Workshop sponsored by the Community Action Network (CAN).
    The workshop will be held Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. until noon in the Chapel Hill Town Council chambers, at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It is free, open to the public, and no pre-registration is required. Offices covered include Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Chapel Hill Town Council, Orange County Board of Commissioners, School Boards, Hillsborough Town Board.
    “We are offering this workshop as a public service,” said Gary Barnes, CAN chairman. “This is the second workshop on campaigns and elections that CAN has sponsored. In addition to providing useful information, we hope it will stimulate interest in running for local offices and working on campaigns.”
    The workshop will consist of questions to a panel of former elected officials and volunteer campaign workers. Members of the audience may participate by asking questions of the panel members. Panel discussion and questions will be moderated by CAN Chairman Gary Barnes. The panel members scheduled to participate are Nick Didow, a former Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member; Steve Halkiotis, a former Orange County Commissioner; Susan Halkiotis, a former Orange County School Board member; Tom Jensen, recent UNC-CH graduate who has been active in a number of local campaign; Thomas Mills, a political consultant; Ruby Sinreich, a former candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council; Allen Spalt, a former Carrboro Board of Aldermen member; and Rosemary Waldorf, a former Chapel Hill Mayor.
    After panel discussion and questions from the audience, participants will break into small informal groups. “These breakout groups will be highly unstructured, and a major goal will be to have fun,” Barnes said. “Participants will get at least some sense of how local elected officials have to understand and work cooperatively with a variety of public and non-profit agencies.”
    Community Action Network has prepared a resource packet for all participants. It will include basic information about how to file for elections, samples of reports required by the Orange County Board of Elections, and a campaign activity timeline.
    CAN is a nonprofit membership organization that advocates for the general public interest. It was founded in 1999 as a grassroots organization dedicated to being “a positive force for positive action” in the Orange County community. Perhaps CAN’s most visible role has been as a host for campaign forums. It has held regular candidate forums for local elections since 1999.
    “We view this workshop as another positive, constructive effort by CAN to serve the community. We plan to make it plenty of fun and we hope lots of people come, participate and learn,” Barnes said.

    For more information, contact Gary Barnes at 942-8098.

  5. It seems apparent that Kevin Foy, Sally Greene, Cam Hill and Bill Strom will all run again for Town Council this year. It’s been great working with this group. I guess the question now is, anyone else willing to take the plunge? Anyone willing to challenge the incumbents? Will we be able to see publicly financed campaigns as a pilot project now or the next election? And is it really money that drives people away from running for Town Council? Maybe it’s the time commitment. Not sure what other potential candidates are thinking, seeing that we have all 5 running again. Is it too hard to overcome the incumbency factor? Some newspaper reported that 20 to 30 percent of voters could be expected to turn out for the municipal election. I gather the number is smaller.

  6. If 2005 is any example, %14.7 will turnout. Of course, if the king-maker is right ;-), this year will be a “snoozer”

  7. It appears that everyone is pleased with the performance of the councilmembers that are running and choose not to challenge. Or maybe the possible candidates would like to run, but feel it a waste of time because incumbency is too hard to overcome.

  8. Incumbency is a tough nut but then again, if folks are interested, the established record can be used to draw some very stark contrast in approach and policy. Of course, that’s contingent on whether the electorate cares to make any distinction.

    BTW, like the new logo, getting used to the bright green.

  9. The bright green is tough. It’s an experiment. But in reference to the tough incumbency, it should not be a deterrent to running. If I may be so humble to state that last election I beat the incumbents in terms of numbers of votes (Mark K was close!) We know the past race involved 2 incumbents and 2 “open” seats, where this time there aren’t really any “open” seats. I don’t really like to look at it that way. If one wants to run for Town Council, run for Town Council. You never know what might happen…..

  10. OK, I think I like this theme even better. I know the clock is ticking on Council contestants. As of Friday the “cohesive” incumbent slate is in place.

    I hope we see a fuller slate of alternatives – maybe even some surprise entries. The next 4 years are going to be really crucial in our Town’s development and if Lot $$$5 is our guidepost – “Whoa Nellie!”

    Time will tell and by week’s end we’ll know if the current alternative thinking minority on Council has a chance to expand.

  11. I just don’t know what to make of the lack of nonincumbents wanting to throw their hats in. On the one hand, it could say that well, we are happy with the current councilmembers and the job they’re performing. On the other hand, it could be that the challenge of facing 4 or 5 incumbents is too much. Maybe it’s both. But it is nice and feels good in a truly democratic government to have a healthy discourse, lively debate, and highlighting of the issues that is so unique during a campaign. I really think things get DONE in a campaign, in a way. It spurs people on to think hard, work hard, and maybe even make a promise or to that they have to work hard to achieve in their own incumbency. A healthy democracy is one in which people feel their voices are heard and when no one particular person or group controls government for very long unless the people choose to have it that way.

  12. Yes, I thought Amy or some other “new” faces would jump in. We still have a week.

  13. Excellent resource you\’ve got here!!! Will definately be back!!!b

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