Vail Daily column: Local elections matter
Autumn is a favorite season for many locals in the Vail Valley, and for good reason. The weather cools off, crowds thin out, restaurant specials abound and the hiking/biking/golfing are at their best. Plus, autumn means it’s election season.
Wait, what? Who looks forward to election season?
For the record, I’m not referencing the presidential election cycle; like most, I’m inclined to ignore that circus until absolutely necessary. Each party will ultimately land on their chosen nominee and as a swing state, we’ll get more than our fair share of advertisements telling us how terrible the other side is and very little about what candidates from either party might actually stand for. But I digress.
Under the Radar
Election season is exciting because in addition to the mundane presidential mess, it also means a variety of local elections and special district elections. These local elections tend to run under the radar, which is unfortunate because the results of our local elections tend to impact our daily lives more than the presidential election will next fall. It’s been refreshing to see nine candidates for four open positions on the Eagle County School Board (and with front page coverage in the Vail Daily, to boot) and it is good to see multiple candidates running for Town Council in Vail. Additional local elections (certainly not a full list) include Colorado Mountain College trustees and a community improvement initiative for the Eagle-Vail Metro District.
I have heard quite a bit when it comes to public service and running for office (or supporting/not supporting a ballot initiative). Some folks are drawn to being a part of a grassroots effort to make direct changes in the community, others from altruism for public service and still others are motivated to getting to know the “movers and shakers” in the community. The common theme among candidates and their supporters or detractors of initiatives is they are almost without exception doing it with the best of intentions and out of a deep caring for their community.
Threads of Commonality
Like many in this community, I have served on local property owner boards, work for a nonprofit, volunteer time on numerous nonprofit and industry boards, volunteer for local organizations and at my daughters school, and use my professional networks to connect groups of people or businesses to resources. While that service might seem all over the place, I have observed many constants through my experiences; no matter what shape my community involvement morphs into, there are threads of commonality. That point of commonality is the good intentions and love of community of those who run for office and those who give back through volunteerism. It is these transferable skills that illustrate the importance of getting involved in your community.
Getting involved can start early — it is important that young professionals (those who are typically busy focusing on career and family) be engaged in the process. Our community will be facing a bit of a leadership void in the coming years as many of our elected officials and community leaders reach retirement age. We’ve started to see this in the private sector with the retirements of prominent leaders, and it will be coming to our special districts and other public sector positions before we know it. Get engaged in volunteer opportunities; attend board meetings of the water district or your local metro district or run for your homeowner association. This community involvement will help you understand the needs of the greater community, and at the same time position you for future leadership opportunities at a larger level down the road.
Local elections are important as they help shape the future of both our individual communities within the valley as well as our valley-wide community for years to come. You should have received your ballot by now — be sure to do your homework, research the issues, learn the positions of the various candidates and then, most importantly, be sure to vote.
Make A difference
My parting words of wisdom are to not get involved in your community and volunteer because it looks good on your resume. Do it because you want to make a difference and build skills and do it because it is important to the community for folks to be involved and engaged. Don’t sit on the sideline and criticize those who take the initiative to campaign (assuming they do so fairly) — engage in the process and make a difference.
Every little bit of time you give does help, and never be afraid to ask around and figure out where you can be most helpful in your community. Kudos to those running in local elections this year, and thank you for putting the community first.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.