Across the country, in towns, cities and hamlets, citizens are preparing to elect their highest local representative, the mayor.
For what appears to be a thankless job, there is rarely a shortage of applicants. Being mayor means something to people who are ruled by the city’s highest official. His words and actions matter. Some mayors are short term, some long term, and there are those who should never have been there in the first place.
There are those who run over and over again. Sometimes they get there, sometimes they don’t. There’s this old adage about doing things the same way over and over again, expecting a different outcome.
Just because someone believes he or she should run the city doesn’t mean that it is. Many people bemoaned the fact that the mayor, like the President of the United States, has few professional requirements and standards. The qualifications to report to the office are de minimis and are often described by the candidates‘ own perceived qualifications.
The candidates for mayor are coming out little by little. Announcements are made at various places and times. There is more to come.
The position of mayor varies from city to city. In some cities the mayor is primarily a ceremonial figure, while in others he or she is an important executive officer. The mayor is generally elected by universal suffrage. In some places where there is a commission plan, he or she is chosen from the board of directors to serve as chairman and ceremonial figure.
The mayor of Gadsden will be elected by universal suffrage. The city’s registered voters will elect its leader. I hope the resentment and general ugliness won’t show their ugly head during next year’s mayoral campaign.
Oh yes, mayors run campaigns. Sometimes they can afford paid staff. Much of the work is done by volunteers. So much is done by people who don’t get paid. There is a general reason why volunteers give their time and money to advance the careers of another.
These reasons are not always altruistic. Some want and need a job, just like some applicants. Some live their own life vicariously through the candidate. They neither have the will nor the capacity to stand for election. Some have traded in their jobs, in exchange for access to what they hope will be the winner. Other campaign volunteers are promised positions in the new administration or coveted appointments to boards and commissions.
Whatever the justification for campaign work, volunteers should be careful who they hang their wagons with. There are few things worse than finding out that the candidate isn’t who or what you thought he was. It’s an ugly sight to see a renegade after facing their own personal disappointment.
The candidate should likewise choose carefully those who lead the campaigns and serve as substitutes. Some volunteers get delusional and actually believe they are a better choice than the candidate. I have witnessed such workers in a campaign to be the first African American mayor of the city of St. Louis.
The mayoral candidate and I graduated in law together; he campaigned to be the first African-American circuit clerk and eventually ran for mayor. Many “Frankensteins” have been created, which we have freely recognized.
It doesn’t matter who the candidates are. What matters is having a platform. What are you going to do to improve the lives of the people of Gadsden? How are you going to improve the quality of life in the city and thus make Gadsden a better place to live and work, and ultimately attract businesses and people?
Gadsden doesn’t need a two-question mayor. Those who rush to derail the pet food rendering plant and promise to rid Gadsden of the trade tax should be sidelined. The city deserves more and better. There is a need for inclusion in city government, and the things that matter. There is a need to clean the house, ridding taxpayers of underperforming and underperforming employees.
Nepotism, wherever it exists in government, should be rooted out.
Cleaning up the city of abandoned housing and roadside garbage and rubbish should be a priority. Residents should be required to clear their property of unwanted and abandoned cars.
There are other major issues that need to be addressed by the mayor. Because you and your friends think the job should be yours, there’s no reason to campaign for it. What do you offer the citizens of Gadsden?
When the rubber meets the road and there is a town hall debate, the place should be filled to capacity with people coming face to face with the person who would run this town.
Now is the time to listen!
Elaine Harris Spearman, Esq., Originally from Gadsden, is the retired legal counsel to the Comptroller of the City of St. Louis.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Elaine Harris Spearman looks into the upcoming mayoral race