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.