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Wanted: Engaged citizens to run in local elections

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If the upcoming general election were a help wanted ad, it might read something like this: “California, Placer County, Town of Loomis, school and special districts seek active, engaged citizens to serve their communities with integrity, ethics, patience, purpose and enthusiasm. Must be willing to work long hours for little or no pay. Independent thinking encouraged. Thick skin a must. Handshakers welcome; baby-kissers need not apply. Complete paperwork by Aug. 8 to be considered by a vote of your peers. Hiring in November.” Interested? Get on down to Loomis Town Hall or the county Elections Office and file for the elective office opening of your choice. While much of the 2008 election season up to this point has focused on McCain-Obama and, closer to home, Brown v. McClintock for the 4th Congressional District, there are a couple of dozen seats locally up for grabs on the town council, park and school boards, fire and special service districts. In many cases, the actions and decisions of these local elected leaders will have a more profound effect on our lives than whatever the next president or Congressional representative will do. They set utility rates. They decide if schools close or stay open. They determine emergency response times, locations of dog parks and water conservation levels. Yet, it’s these candidates voters often know little or nothing about. Voters, make it a point this year to know the candidates for local office better than in the past. And for prospective candidates, make sure these skills are on your political resume: Patience: Whether you’re seeking a seat on the Loomis Town Council, or the state Legislature seats held by Republicans Dave Cox, Ted Gaines and Rick Keene, you need to know the public’s business often takes longer to conduct. Studies must be completed. Agendas must be published. Hearings must be held. This shouldn’t be confused with filibustering, which has little value to the community. Listening: No matter the position, you’ll have many people telling you their ideas are better than yours — and sometimes they’re right. Keep your ears and mind open, but also know when to cut off the local gadfly from the lectern when his or her diatribe sends the meeting into extra innings. Negotiation: The Rolling Stones sang “you can’t always get what you want,” and that’s true whether you sit on the Loomis Union elementary school or Placer Joint Union high school district boards. Understand that your role is to uphold academic standards while delivering the most bang for the taxpayers’ buck. That will guide you at teacher contract time — or a decision whether to unify foothill school districts. Community service: At the end of the day, what you do is important in moving a city, school or special district forward in meeting the twin challenges of service and cost. Leverage your relationships and accomplishments with the intention of doing your best for the people you’ll be accountable to. A complete list of the offices and applicants already filed can be found under the “Candidate Watch” link on the county Elections Division Web site. Whether you feel like watching from the stands or getting on the field this fall, training camp is under way. Either way, get in the game.