We were struck this week by a quote from Academy Hill native and Portland mayoral candidate Belinda Ray in Maia Zewert’s front-page article.
“By being involved, you can make positive change and make sure the things you value and care about are protected,” Ray said. “Life is so much more interesting when you get involved.”
As reporters, we interview a lot of candidates for public office. Like, a lot. We almost always ask this question: “Why are you running?”
The most common answer is: “Someone asked me to run.”
They almost make a show of their reluctance. With the level of enthusiasm some show, they might as well say, “I did not decide to run of my own free will. I am being held hostage and forced to run for municipal office. Help!”
It’s what makes Ray’s words refreshing.
The explanation – “someone asked me to run” – is likely true in most cases, but we suspect many candidates share a dirty secret: They want to run!
To be sure, public service in town government can be frustrating and thankless. But sources tell us many of our local public servants take great satisfaction in the work they do.
It feels good to make a difference, to improve the lives of your neighbors.
Even when things do not go well – a proposal fails, a project falls apart – surely it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.
We salute Belinda Ray and all the other public servants who dare to openly enjoy their public service.
Perhaps if more public servants did so, there would be less vacancies on local boards and committees, less apathy about local government.
If you think you could make a positive impact in your community, talk to your town office about how you can get involved. We bet that more often than not, they will have a place for you.