Town Board needs you
In April, Eagle will elect trustees for four Town Board positions. The large turnover marks a crossroads for the board, and for the town.
The four trustees who are term-limited have a total of 40 years of elected or appointed public service at the town. Their experience represents a gold mine of institutional memory and knowledge, especially in light of the fact that two of the three continuing board members were elected just two years ago.
In that election, exactly two qualified candidates stepped forward for two open positions. Poised to triple its historical population, Eagle posts an election that like the last two, lacks a single, dominating issue. This poses a challenge for motivating interest in running for these positions.
Town boards have helped change come to Eagle largely on Eagle’s terms, while steadying the ship through 7 percent growth. Stoplights, roundabouts, a new town hall, a recreation center, not to mention and fast food and a grocery chain store have all arrived in Eagle in the last 10 years. Challenges on Highway 6, in the old Eagle downtown and in review of Red Mountain Ranch development have just begun.
The valley offers a wealth of opportunities for involvement, not the least of which is, of course, parenthood. According to the census, of Eagle’s 3,000 people, 32 percent are less than 20 years old and 47 percent of the households have children.
Those of us on the board like to think that a lack of thronging attendance at meetings usually points to a “vote of confidence” by otherwise busy citizens. Public attendance of meetings may or may not reflect approval for the current town board and staff, but tepid interest in running for local office is of great concern.
As a cornerstone of democracy, citizen involvement in the public realm is vital. Elections are “spring cleaning” days in America, and competitive elections provide a forum for a community to galvanize its vision. Alexis deToqueville said that town government is primary school for democracy.
To be frank, there are many disincentives to sitting on the Town Board of Trustees. The review and consideration of much text and data takes time, as does understanding the process. Money is no motivation. Hour for hour, there is more pay waiting tables than there is sitting on the board at $100 a month. As for power, that is better gained in other realms. With TABOR, Colorado, as is the trend nationwide, has done its best to eviscerate funding sources, viewing people as “taxpayers with rights” rather than citizens who have high expectations for their society. It is not a glamorous time to be involved in government.
Contrary to common belief, there is a lot of hope at this level. You don’t have to be a “politician,” an MBA, an accountant, or a lawyer to be of service, though you must have a tough skin and a big picture outlook. A trustee’s most important attribute is a sincere interest in the future of the town. Town government is grass roots, and of late, is little affected by the party politics that disenchant so many people.
Eagle has been fortunate to have board members who were not elected to grind axes, who are more interested in working together through differences than in grandstanding. Take a look around you and ask, who else is going to carry on this work?
When I ran for office six years ago, it seemed that every time I went to the post office, I met another resident who had served on the Town Board. A committed core of longtime citizens had managed the public interest in Eagle on a sort of rotating volunteer basis, providing invaluable responsibility and foresight. They met change with high expectations. Along with a committed town staff, their legacy is a place that continues to be unique and special amid the leveling pressure of American monoculture.
I’m always heartened when the public comes out of the woodwork just before an important agenda item. The chairs fill up when there is a decision that directly affects someone’s lifestyle or pocketbook. We are often discussing someone’s current or future home or land, and it is at these times that I have been most impressed by the ability of citizen trustees to consider the rights and will of one of their neighbors (or a developer), and weigh it against the overall interests of the community. Though the scope may often be small, passions can run high, and the decisions are not easy.
If you are interested in serving, most everything you need to know can be learned “on the job” during the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.
Elections are coming soon. I encourage you to attend a meeting or two before making a commitment. Inquire at the Eagle Town Hall.
Jon Stavney is mayor pro-tempore of Eagle.
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